CN107068586B - Automatic replacement of consumable components using connected chambers - Google Patents

Automatic replacement of consumable components using connected chambers Download PDF

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Publication number
CN107068586B
CN107068586B CN201610932313.XA CN201610932313A CN107068586B CN 107068586 B CN107068586 B CN 107068586B CN 201610932313 A CN201610932313 A CN 201610932313A CN 107068586 B CN107068586 B CN 107068586B
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China
Prior art keywords
consumable
module
finger
cluster tool
load lock
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CN201610932313.XA
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CN107068586A (en
Inventor
达蒙·蒂龙·格内特
乔恩·麦克切斯尼
亚历克斯·帕特森
德里克·约翰·威特科维基
奥斯丁·恩戈
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Lam Research Corp
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Lam Research Corp
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Priority to US14/920,090 priority Critical
Priority to US14/920,090 priority patent/US20170115657A1/en
Priority to US15/048,960 priority
Priority to US15/048,960 priority patent/US10062599B2/en
Application filed by Lam Research Corp filed Critical Lam Research Corp
Publication of CN107068586A publication Critical patent/CN107068586A/en
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Publication of CN107068586B publication Critical patent/CN107068586B/en
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    • HELECTRICITY
    • H01BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS
    • H01LSEMICONDUCTOR DEVICES; ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • H01L21/00Processes or apparatus adapted for the manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or solid state devices or of parts thereof
    • H01L21/67Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/67005Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/67011Apparatus for manufacture or treatment
    • H01L21/67155Apparatus for manufacturing or treating in a plurality of work-stations
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H01BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS
    • H01LSEMICONDUCTOR DEVICES; ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • H01L21/00Processes or apparatus adapted for the manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or solid state devices or of parts thereof
    • H01L21/67Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/683Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping
    • H01L21/687Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping using mechanical means, e.g. chucks, clamps or pinches
    • H01L21/68714Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping using mechanical means, e.g. chucks, clamps or pinches the wafers being placed on a susceptor, stage or support
    • H01L21/6875Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping using mechanical means, e.g. chucks, clamps or pinches the wafers being placed on a susceptor, stage or support characterised by a plurality of individual support members, e.g. support posts or protrusions
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H01BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS
    • H01LSEMICONDUCTOR DEVICES; ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • H01L21/00Processes or apparatus adapted for the manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or solid state devices or of parts thereof
    • H01L21/67Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/67005Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/67011Apparatus for manufacture or treatment
    • H01L21/67155Apparatus for manufacturing or treating in a plurality of work-stations
    • H01L21/6719Apparatus for manufacturing or treating in a plurality of work-stations characterized by the construction of the processing chambers, e.g. modular processing chambers
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H01BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS
    • H01LSEMICONDUCTOR DEVICES; ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • H01L21/00Processes or apparatus adapted for the manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or solid state devices or of parts thereof
    • H01L21/67Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/67005Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/67011Apparatus for manufacture or treatment
    • H01L21/67155Apparatus for manufacturing or treating in a plurality of work-stations
    • H01L21/67196Apparatus for manufacturing or treating in a plurality of work-stations characterized by the construction of the transfer chamber
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H01BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS
    • H01LSEMICONDUCTOR DEVICES; ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • H01L21/00Processes or apparatus adapted for the manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or solid state devices or of parts thereof
    • H01L21/67Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/67005Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/67011Apparatus for manufacture or treatment
    • H01L21/67155Apparatus for manufacturing or treating in a plurality of work-stations
    • H01L21/67201Apparatus for manufacturing or treating in a plurality of work-stations characterized by the construction of the load-lock chamber
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H01BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS
    • H01LSEMICONDUCTOR DEVICES; ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • H01L21/00Processes or apparatus adapted for the manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or solid state devices or of parts thereof
    • H01L21/67Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/673Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere using specially adapted carriers or holders; Fixing the workpieces on such carriers or holders
    • H01L21/6735Closed carriers
    • H01L21/67386Closed carriers characterised by the construction of the closed carrier
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H01BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS
    • H01LSEMICONDUCTOR DEVICES; ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • H01L21/00Processes or apparatus adapted for the manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or solid state devices or of parts thereof
    • H01L21/67Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/677Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for conveying, e.g. between different workstations
    • H01L21/67739Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for conveying, e.g. between different workstations into and out of processing chamber
    • H01L21/67742Mechanical parts of transfer devices
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H01BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS
    • H01LSEMICONDUCTOR DEVICES; ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • H01L21/00Processes or apparatus adapted for the manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or solid state devices or of parts thereof
    • H01L21/67Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/683Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping
    • H01L21/687Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping using mechanical means, e.g. chucks, clamps or pinches
    • H01L21/68707Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping using mechanical means, e.g. chucks, clamps or pinches the wafers being placed on a robot blade, or gripped by a gripper for conveyance
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H01BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS
    • H01LSEMICONDUCTOR DEVICES; ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • H01L21/00Processes or apparatus adapted for the manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or solid state devices or of parts thereof
    • H01L21/67Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/683Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping
    • H01L21/687Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping using mechanical means, e.g. chucks, clamps or pinches
    • H01L21/68714Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping using mechanical means, e.g. chucks, clamps or pinches the wafers being placed on a susceptor, stage or support
    • H01L21/68735Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping using mechanical means, e.g. chucks, clamps or pinches the wafers being placed on a susceptor, stage or support characterised by edge profile or support profile
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H01BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS
    • H01LSEMICONDUCTOR DEVICES; ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • H01L21/00Processes or apparatus adapted for the manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or solid state devices or of parts thereof
    • H01L21/67Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/683Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping
    • H01L21/687Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping using mechanical means, e.g. chucks, clamps or pinches
    • H01L21/68714Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping using mechanical means, e.g. chucks, clamps or pinches the wafers being placed on a susceptor, stage or support
    • H01L21/68785Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping using mechanical means, e.g. chucks, clamps or pinches the wafers being placed on a susceptor, stage or support characterised by the mechanical construction of the susceptor, stage or support
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H01BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS
    • H01LSEMICONDUCTOR DEVICES; ELECTRIC SOLID STATE DEVICES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • H01L21/00Processes or apparatus adapted for the manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or solid state devices or of parts thereof
    • H01L21/67Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere
    • H01L21/683Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping
    • H01L21/6838Apparatus specially adapted for handling semiconductor or electric solid state devices during manufacture or treatment thereof; Apparatus specially adapted for handling wafers during manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or electric solid state devices or components ; Apparatus not specifically provided for elsewhere for supporting or gripping with gripping and holding devices using a vacuum; Bernoulli devices

Abstract

The invention relates to automatic replacement of consumable components using connected chambers. The cluster tool assembly includes a vacuum transfer module having a process module coupled to a first side of the vacuum transfer module. The isolation valve has a first side and a second side, the first side of the isolation valve being coupled to the second side of the process module. The replacement station is coupled to a second side of the isolation valve. The change station includes a change operator and a parts buffer. The component buffer includes a plurality of compartments for receiving new or used consumable components. The process module includes a lift mechanism to place a consumable component mounted in the process module into a raised position. The raised position enables access by the replacement operator to enable the consumable components to be removed from the process module and stored in the compartment of the component buffer. The replacement manipulator is configured to return a replacement of the consumable component from the component buffer to the process module. While the process module and the exchange station are maintained in a vacuum state, the exchange is performed by the exchange handler and the process module.

Description

Automatic replacement of consumable components using connected chambers
Technical Field
Embodiments of the present invention relate to cluster tool assemblies used in the manufacture of semiconductor wafers, and more particularly, to cluster tool assemblies that enable the removal and replacement of consumable parts (consumable parts) in process modules disposed in the cluster tool assemblies.
Background
A typical cluster tool assembly used in a manufacturing process to produce semiconductor wafers includes one or more processing modules, where each processing module is used to perform a particular manufacturing operation, such as a cleaning operation, deposition, etching operation, rinsing operation, drying operation, and the like. The chemistry and/or processing conditions used to perform these operations cause some damage in the hardware components of the process modules that are often exposed to the harsh conditions within the process modules. These damaged or worn-out hardware components need to be replaced in a timely manner to ensure that the damaged hardware components do not expose other hardware components in the process module to harsh conditions and to ensure the quality of the semiconductor wafers. For example, an edge ring disposed adjacent a semiconductor wafer in a processing module may be frequently damaged due to its location and its continued exposure to ion bombardment from a plasma generated within the processing module used in etching operations. Damaged edge rings need to be replaced in a timely manner to ensure that the damaged edge rings do not expose underlying hardware components (e.g., chucks) to harsh process conditions. Replaceable hardware components are referred to herein as consumable components.
Current methods of replacing damaged consumable components require trained service technicians to perform a series of steps. The technician needs to take the cluster tool assembly offline, pump/clean the cluster tool assembly to avoid exposure to toxic residues, open the cluster tool, remove the damaged consumable component, and replace the damaged consumable component with a new one. Once the damaged component is replaced, the technician must then clean the cluster tool, pump the cluster tool assembly to vacuum and condition the cluster tool assembly for wafer processing. In some cases, conditioning may include qualifying cluster tool components by running a test process on a semiconductor wafer, taking a cross-section of the semiconductor wafer and analyzing the cross-section to ensure the quality of the process operation. Replacing damaged consumable parts is a complex and time consuming process that requires the cluster tool assembly to be taken offline for a significant amount of time, thereby affecting the profitability of the semiconductor manufacturer.
It is in this context that embodiments of the present invention arise.
Disclosure of Invention
Embodiments of the present invention define a cluster tool assembly and an end effector mechanism disposed within the cluster tool assembly that are designed to remove and replace damaged hardware components of a process module disposed within the cluster tool assembly without breaking vacuum (i.e., exposing the cluster tool assembly to atmospheric conditions). Damaged hardware components that may be replaced are also referred to herein as consumable components. The cluster tool assembly includes one or more process modules, wherein each process module is configured to perform a semiconductor wafer processing operation. As consumable components in a process module are exposed to chemicals and process conditions, the consumable components can become damaged and need to be replaced in a timely manner. By installing a replacement station to the cluster tool assembly, damaged consumable components can be replaced without opening the cluster tool assembly. The change station comprises a component buffer with compartments for storing new and used consumable components. The replacement station and the one or more process modules are coupled to the controller such that the controller coordinates access between the replacement station and the one or more process modules to enable replacement of the consumable components while the one or more process modules are maintained in a vacuum state.
In order to provide easy access to damaged consumable components, the processing module may be designed to include a lifting mechanism. When engaged, the lift mechanism is configured to enable the consumable components to be moved to the raised position such that a robot available within the cluster tool assembly can be used to access and retrieve the raised consumable components from the process module. The replacement consumable part is provided to the process module and the lifting mechanism is adapted to receive the consumable part and lower it to a position in the process module.
By providing a replacement station to access the consumable components, the need to open the cluster tool assembly to atmospheric conditions in order to access the damaged consumable components is eliminated. In some implementations, the replacement station is maintained under vacuum, thereby eliminating the risk of contamination during replacement of the consumable components. As a result, the time required to recondition the process module to bring it into an active operating state after replacement of a damaged consumable part is significantly reduced. Furthermore, the robot and the lifting mechanism enable the consumable components to be replaced without the risk of inadvertently damaging any hardware components of the processing module during retrieval and replacement of the consumable components.
Embodiments of the present disclosure provide cluster tool assemblies that can be used to remove and replace consumable components from a process module without the need to open the cluster tool assembly to atmospheric conditions. Because the cluster tool assembly is not open, the cluster tool assembly does not need to be swept or pumped. As a result, the time required to adjust and qualify cluster tool assemblies is greatly reduced.
The change station can be arranged in three different positions. In one position, the roll changing station is temporarily mounted directly to a process module within the cluster tool assembly, which has the ability to draw to vacuum and retrieve consumable parts directly from the process module. New consumable components are retrieved from the replacement station and placed directly into the processing module. In this position, the exchange station will comprise a robot and a component buffer for accommodating used and new consumable components. The isolation valve will remain on the process module. This configuration is desirable because only the processing module, and not the entire cluster tool assembly, must be taken offline (offline) for this maintenance operation.
In the second position, the replacement station is permanently mounted to a Vacuum Transfer Module (VTM) and a robot within the VTM is used to remove and replace consumable components from the process modules. In this position, the exchange station does not require a dedicated robot, but the end effector of the VTM robot will operate to move both the semiconductor wafer and the consumable part.
In the third position, the replacement station is temporarily or permanently mounted to the Atmospheric Transport Module (ATM) and the robot of the ATM, and the robot of the Vacuum Transport Module (VTM) is used to remove and replace consumable parts from the process module. In this position, the exchange station would not require a dedicated robot arm, but the VTM and ATM robot end effector and load lock chamber disposed between the ATM and VTM would carry both the semiconductor wafer and the consumable part.
The processing module includes a consumable part lift mechanism. The consumable part is typically a ring, such as an edge ring. The consumable components will have to be lifted so that the robot can easily access and take them out. In one embodiment, the lift mechanism comprises: vacuum seal actuator equipped with lift pins. In another embodiment, the actuator is maintained in a vacuum state. Under normal operation, the elevator remains retracted and out of contact with the consumable components. When the consumable component needs to be replaced, the actuator extends the lift pin and raises the consumable component. The robot extends the end effector into the processing module such that the end effector (e.g., a spatula or finger-shaped member connected to the robot) slides under the consumable components. The actuator then retracts the lift pins, placing the consumable components on the end effector. The consumable components are pulled back into the changing station. The reverse order is used to place new consumable components in the processing module.
In one embodiment, an end effector mechanism is disclosed that is attachable to a robotic arm. The end effector mechanism includes a wrist plate (wrist plate), a mounting arm, a finger assembly, and a plurality of contact pads. The mounting arm is connected to the wrist plate. The mounting arm support is provided with a top plate and a bottom plate. The finger assembly is clamped between the top plate and the bottom plate of the mounting arm. The finger assembly includes a pair of fingers extending outwardly from the mounting arm. The finger assembly has a proximal end adjacent the mounting arm and a distal end at a leading end (tip) of the pair of fingers. A first pair of consumable contact pads is disposed on a top surface of the finger assembly and positioned at the proximal end of the finger assembly. A second pair of consumable contact pads is disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly and positioned at the distal end of the finger assembly. A third pair of substrate contact pads is disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly adjacent to and between the first and second pairs of consumable contact pads. A fourth pair of substrate contact pads is disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly adjacent to and between the first and second pairs of consumable contact pads. The finger assembly is configured to transport consumable components using the first and second pairs of consumable contact pads and to transport substrates using the third and fourth pairs of substrate contact pads.
In another embodiment, a load lock chamber disposed within a cluster tool assembly for processing substrates is disclosed. The cluster tool assembly includes an Atmospheric Transport Module (ATM), a Vacuum Transport Module (VTM), and a process module. The load lock chamber is disposed between the ATM and the VTM and provides an interface between the atmospheric transport module and the vacuum transport module. The load lock chamber includes a support mechanism having a plurality of finger assemblies. Each of the plurality of finger assemblies includes a top support finger and a bottom support finger. The top and bottom support fingers have first and second ends. The top surface of the bottom support finger includes a recess adjacent the second end and defined between the first end and the second end. A first spacer block is disposed at the first end between the top support finger and the bottom support finger. A second spacer block is disposed at the first end below the bottom support finger. Substrate contact pads are disposed on top surfaces of the top and bottom support fingers adjacent the second ends of the front ends of the top and bottom support fingers. A consumable contact pad is disposed within the recess and between the substrate contact pad disposed within the bottom support finger and the first end of the bottom support finger. The plurality of finger assemblies are configured to transport a consumable component using a consumable contact pad and transport a substrate using the substrate contact pad.
In particular, some aspects of the invention may be set forth as follows:
1. a load lock chamber disposed within a cluster tool assembly for processing substrates, the cluster tool assembly having an atmospheric transfer module, a vacuum transfer module, and a processing module, the load lock chamber disposed between the atmospheric transfer module and the vacuum transfer module, the load lock chamber comprising:
a support mechanism having a plurality of finger assemblies, each of the plurality of finger assemblies including a top support finger and a bottom support finger, the top and bottom support fingers having first and second ends, a top surface of the bottom support finger including a recess adjacent the second end and defined between the first and second ends;
a spacer block disposed at the first end between the top support finger and the bottom support finger,
a second spacer block disposed at the first end below the bottom support finger;
a substrate contact pad disposed on top surfaces of the top and bottom support fingers adjacent the second ends of the front ends of the top and bottom support fingers; and
a consumable contact pad disposed within the recess, the consumable contact pad disposed between the substrate contact pad disposed within the bottom support finger and the first end of the bottom support finger,
wherein the plurality of finger assemblies are configured to transport a consumable component using the consumable contact pad and to transport a substrate using the substrate contact pad.
2. The load lock chamber of clause 1, wherein the consumable contact pad is disposed outside a diameter of the substrate.
3. The load lock chamber of clause 1, wherein the substrate contact pad is disposed inside a diameter of the substrate.
4. The load lock chamber of clause 1, further comprising a second consumable contact pad disposed within the recess of the bottom support finger adjacent to and between the consumable contact pad and the first end of the bottom support finger.
5. The load lock chamber of clause 4, wherein the second consumable contact pad is disposed outside a diameter of the substrate.
6. The load lock chamber of clause 1, wherein the consumable contact pad and the substrate contact pad are made of an elastomeric material.
7. The load lock chamber of clause 1, wherein the load lock chamber is disposed between the atmospheric transfer module and the vacuum transfer module, the load lock chamber providing an interface between the atmospheric transfer module and the vacuum transfer module.
8. A cluster tool assembly having an atmospheric transfer module, a vacuum transfer module, a load lock chamber, and a process module, the cluster tool assembly comprising:
the atmospheric transport module having a first robot;
a replacement station coupled to a first side of the atmospheric transport module, the replacement station having a component buffer with a plurality of compartments for storing new or used consumable components;
a load lock chamber coupled to a second side of the atmospheric transfer module and a first side of the vacuum transfer module, the load lock chamber providing an interface between the atmospheric transfer module and the vacuum transfer module; and
wherein the first robot comprises a first end effector mechanism, the first end effector mechanism of the first robot comprising,
a wrist-like plate;
a mounting arm coupled to the wrist plate;
a finger assembly mounted to the mounting arm and including a pair of fingers extending outwardly from the mounting arm, the finger assembly having a proximal end adjacent the mounting arm and a distal end defined at a forward end of the pair of fingers;
a first carrier contact pad disposed on a top surface of the finger assembly proximate a center of a fork defined by the pair of fingers; and
a second pair of carrier contact pads disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly and positioned adjacent the distal end of the finger assembly,
wherein the finger assembly is configured to transport a substrate and support a carrier plate using the first and second pairs of carrier contact pads, wherein the carrier plate is configured to support a consumable component.
9. The cluster tool assembly of clause 8, wherein the carrier plate is triangular in shape, the carrier plate comprising a consumable contact pad disposed at each vertex of the carrier plate such that the consumable contact pad disposed at each vertex is outside a radius of the substrate from a center of the carrier plate.
10. The cluster tool assembly of clause 8, wherein the replacement station comprises a housing for storing the carrier plate.
11. A cluster tool assembly according to clause 8, wherein the change station comprises a divider plate to separate a compartment selected from the plurality of compartments storing new consumables from other compartments of the plurality of compartments storing used consumables, wherein the change station comprises a housing defined on the divider plate for storing the carrier plate.
12. A cluster tool assembly according to clause 11, wherein the change station comprises a second housing for storing a second carrier plate, the second housing being defined below the divider plate, wherein the compartment below the divider plate is used for storing used consumable components.
13. The cluster tool assembly of clause 8, wherein the process module is coupled to the second side of the vacuum transfer module, and wherein access from the vacuum transfer module to the process module is through a gate valve operated using a sensor mechanism.
14. The cluster tool assembly of clause 8, wherein the vacuum transfer module comprises a second robot having a second end effector mechanism, the second end effector mechanism of the second robot comprising,
a wrist-like plate;
a mounting arm coupled to the wrist plate, the mounting arm having a top plate and a bottom plate;
a finger assembly clamped between the top plate and the bottom plate of the mounting arm, the finger assembly including a pair of fingers extending outwardly from the mounting arm, the finger assembly having a proximal end adjacent the mounting arm and a distal end at a forward end of the pair of fingers;
a first pair of consumable contact pads disposed on a top surface of the finger assembly and positioned at the proximal end of the finger assembly;
a second pair of consumable contact pads disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly and positioned at the distal end of the finger assembly;
a third pair of substrate contact pads disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly adjacent to and between the first pair of consumable contact pads and the second pair of consumable contact pads; and
a fourth pair of substrate contact pads disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly adjacent to the second pair of consumable contact pads and between the first pair of consumable contact pads and the second pair of consumable contact pads,
wherein the finger assembly is configured to transport consumable components using the first and second pairs of consumable contact pads and to transport substrates using the third and fourth pairs of substrate contact pads.
15. The cluster tool assembly of clause 14, wherein the first and second pairs of consumable contact pads are disposed outside a diameter of the substrate, and wherein the third and fourth pairs of substrate contact pads are disposed inside the diameter of the substrate.
16. The cluster tool assembly of clause 8, further comprising a dynamic aligner coupled to the atmospheric transport module to provide an alignment input to a computer communicatively connected with the dynamic aligner and the atmospheric transport module, wherein the computer is used to send a signal having the alignment input to the first robot.
17. The cluster tool assembly of clause 8, further comprising one or more wafer loaders disposed at the first side of the atmospheric transport module, each of the one or more wafer loaders comprising a wafer buffer including a plurality of compartments to store processed or unprocessed substrates.
18. The cluster tool assembly of clause 8, further comprising a controller connected to each of the atmospheric transfer module, the vacuum transfer module, the load lock chamber, the process module, and the change station, the controller including transfer logic and vacuum state control means, the transfer logic being used to coordinate access to the change station, the atmospheric transfer module, the load lock chamber, the vacuum transfer module, and the process module, and the vacuum state control means being used to maintain the process module and the vacuum transfer module in a vacuum state.
19. The cluster tool assembly of clause 8, wherein the process module includes a lift mechanism for moving the consumable components within the process module from a mounted position to a raised position during replacement to provide access to the consumable components and for moving the consumable components from the raised position to the mounted position.
20. The cluster tool assembly of clause 8, wherein the first robot, the second robot, the vacuum transfer module, the process module, and the load lock chamber are connected with a controller to coordinate movement of the consumable parts between the change station and the load lock chamber and between the load lock chamber and the process module.
21. The cluster tool assembly of clause 8, wherein the load lock chamber further comprises a vacuum control device coupled to a pump, wherein the vacuum control device is connected with a controller to coordinate actions of the pump configured to maintain the load lock chamber in a vacuum state during operation.
22. The cluster tool assembly of clause 8, wherein the exchange station comprises a structure similar to a front opening unified pod structure of a wafer loader for transporting substrates, the opening within the exchange station being connected with an opening of a load port defined on the first side of the atmospheric transport module.
23. The cluster tool assembly of clause 22, wherein the connecting is performed automatically using an automated mainframe material processing system available in a mainframe manufacturing facility in which the cluster tool assembly is positioned, the automated mainframe material processing system including tracking software to direct an Overhead Hoist Transport (OHT) or Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) of the automated mainframe material processing system to an appropriate replacement station or wafer loader stored in the mainframe manufacturing facility.
24. A cluster tool assembly for processing a substrate, the cluster tool assembly having an atmospheric transfer module, a vacuum transfer module, a load lock chamber, and a processing module, the cluster tool assembly comprising:
a replacement station coupled to a first side of the atmospheric transport module, the replacement station having a component buffer with a plurality of compartments to store new or used consumable components;
the load lock chamber coupled to a second side of the atmospheric transfer module and a first side of the vacuum transfer module, the load lock chamber providing an interface between the atmospheric transfer module and the vacuum transfer module, the load lock chamber comprising:
a support mechanism having a plurality of finger assemblies, each of the plurality of finger assemblies including a top support finger and a bottom support finger, the top and bottom support fingers having first and second ends, a top surface of the bottom support finger including a recess adjacent the second end and defined between the first and second ends;
a first spacer block disposed at the first end between the top support finger and the bottom support finger,
a second spacer block disposed at the first end below the bottom support finger;
a substrate contact pad disposed on top surfaces of the top and bottom support fingers adjacent the second ends of the front ends of the top and bottom support fingers; and
a consumable contact pad disposed within the recess, the consumable contact pad disposed between the substrate contact pad disposed within the bottom support finger and the first end of the bottom support finger,
wherein the plurality of finger assemblies are configured to transport a consumable component using a consumable contact pad and to transport a substrate using the substrate contact pad.
Other aspects of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, illustrating by way of example the principles of the invention.
Drawings
The invention may be best understood by reference to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
FIG. 1 shows a simplified block diagram of a cluster tool assembly including a change station mounted to a process module used in processing semiconductor wafers in one embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 2 shows a simplified block diagram of a cluster tool assembly including a change station mounted to a vacuum transfer module of the cluster tool in an alternative embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 3 shows a simplified block diagram of a cluster tool assembly including a change station mounted to an atmosphere delivery module of the cluster tool in an alternative embodiment of the invention.
Fig. 3A shows a simplified block diagram of a cluster tool assembly including a robot having an end effector for moving consumable parts within a cluster tool, in one embodiment of the invention.
Fig. 4 shows a simplified block diagram of a portion of a processing module of a cluster tool assembly including an exemplary lift mechanism for providing access to a consumable part in one embodiment of the invention.
Fig. 5A shows a simplified block diagram of a process module with a change station mounted for moving consumable components in one embodiment of the invention, wherein the lift mechanism is in a disengaged mode.
FIG. 5B shows a simplified block diagram of a process module with a change station installed in which the lift mechanism is in an engaged mode in one embodiment of the invention.
Fig. 5C shows a simplified block diagram of a process module having a replacement station mounted to a vacuum transfer module for use in replacing consumable components in the process module and a lift mechanism in the process module in one embodiment of the invention.
Fig. 6A illustrates an end effector mechanism for use within an ATM configured to receive a substrate, while fig. 6B, 6B-1, and 6C illustrate top and side views of an end effector mechanism disposed within an atmospheric transport module and/or a vacuum transport module in some embodiments of the invention.
Fig. 7A-7D illustrate varying bottom surface profiles of consumable components received using an end effector mechanism, according to some embodiments of the invention.
Fig. 7E illustrates an exemplary end effector mechanism on a robot of a VTM, according to some embodiments of the invention.
7F-1, 7F-2 illustrate an alternative contact pad concept for use in an end effector mechanism on a robot for a VTM and/or ATM that supports consumable components having different bottom profiles, according to some embodiments of the present invention.
Fig. 8A-8B illustrate an exemplary end effector mechanism for transporting substrates and consumable components into a load lock chamber, according to some embodiments of the invention.
9A-9B illustrate exemplary side and top views of an end effector mechanism with a ring carrier for transporting consumable components to a load lock chamber, according to some embodiments of the invention.
Fig. 10A-10D illustrate an exemplary finger assembly for use within a load lock chamber configured to receive a consumable component, according to some embodiments of the invention.
Fig. 10E-10F illustrate views of an existing load lock chamber and a redesigned load lock chamber including a finger assembly to receive a consumable component, according to some embodiments of the present invention.
FIG. 11 illustrates an exemplary change station for storing consumable parts and ring carriers, according to an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 12 illustrates a slot in a process module through which consumable parts or wafers are moved into and out of the process module, according to one embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 13 illustrates a control module (i.e., controller) for controlling various aspects of a cluster tool, according to one embodiment.
Detailed Description
Embodiments of the present disclosure define a cluster tool assembly for processing semiconductor wafers. The cluster tool assembly includes a process module for processing semiconductor wafers. The replacement station is mounted to the cluster tool assembly. The exchange station is maintained under vacuum in order to provide the necessary process conditions for replacing consumable parts without the risk of contaminating the process modules or cluster tool assemblies. A dedicated robot in the change station or a robot available in the cluster tool assembly is used to retrieve a used consumable part from the process module and replace it with a new consumable part.
In some embodiments, the replacement station may be mounted directly to a process module of the cluster tool assembly in which the consumable part needs to be replaced. In such an embodiment, the replacement station is directly coupled to the process module. A robot defined in the exchange station is used to retrieve and replace the consumable components.
In some other embodiments, the replacement station may be mounted directly to a Vacuum Transfer Module (VTM) within the cluster tool assembly. The change station is installed so as to maintain uniformity and symmetry of the cluster tool assembly. The robot of the VTM for moving semiconductor wafers into and out of the process modules is also used for retrieving and replacing consumable parts arranged in the process modules.
In some other embodiments, the replacement station may be mounted directly to the atmospheric transport module of the cluster tool assembly. In such embodiments, the robot of the atmospheric transfer module works in conjunction with the robot of the vacuum transfer module of the cluster tool assembly to access and replace consumable parts from the process modules. The replacement station is designed to be mounted to a different module of the cluster tool assembly and enables replacement of the consumable component without requiring the cluster tool assembly to be open to atmospheric conditions to access the consumable component.
Conventional designs of cluster tool assemblies require opening the cluster tool assembly to access and replace consumable parts within the processing module. Opening of the cluster tool assembly requires taking the cluster tool assembly offline and purging the cluster tool assembly to atmospheric conditions to allow access to the process modules. Once the cluster tool assembly is opened, a trained technician may manually remove and replace the consumable components from the process module. When consumable parts are replaced, the cluster tool assembly must be adjusted so that the semiconductor wafers can be processed. Since semiconductor wafers are expensive products, special care must be taken when adjusting cluster tool components. The conditioning entails cleaning the cluster tool assembly, pumping the cluster tool assembly to vacuum, conditioning the cluster tool assembly, and qualifying the cluster tool assembly using a test run. Each of these steps requires a great deal of time and effort. In addition to the time required to adjust each step of the cluster tool assembly, other delays may be experienced when a problem is encountered at one or more steps in the adjustment process of the cluster tool assembly. Some of the problems often encountered during adjustment of cluster tool components may include: misalignment of consumable components during replacement, damage to new consumable components when replacing damaged or used consumable components, damage to other hardware components in the process module during retrieval and replacement of consumable components, lack of vacuum achieved by the cluster tool assembly after pumping, lack of process performance achieved by the cluster tool assembly, etc. Based on the severity of each problem, additional time and effort may have to be expended further contributing to the delay in bringing cluster tool components online, thereby directly impacting the profitability of the manufacturer.
Installing the replacement station to the cluster tool assembly and accessing the consumable part through the replacement station saves considerable time and effort required for maintaining the cluster tool assembly. The risk of damage to the consumable components, the process module, and/or the cluster tool assembly is minimized by using available robots within the cluster tool assembly for replacing the consumable components, and by maintaining the replacement station under vacuum, the risk of contamination is minimized, thereby avoiding exposure of the interior of the cluster tool assembly to the outside atmosphere. Using a robot, a more accurate alignment of consumable components in the processing module can be achieved while minimizing damage to other hardware components of the processing module. Thus, the time required to adjust the cluster tool assembly is greatly reduced. Timely replacement of consumable parts improves the quality and yield of semiconductor elements defined in a semiconductor wafer.
In one embodiment, fig. 1 shows a simplified schematic diagram of a cluster tool assembly 100 for processing semiconductor wafers. The cluster tool assembly 100 includes a plurality of modules to allow semiconductor wafers to be processed in a controlled environment that minimizes exposure of the semiconductor wafers to the environment. In one embodiment, the cluster tool assembly 100 includes an Atmospheric Transport Module (ATM) 102, a common Vacuum Transport Module (VTM) 104, and one or more process modules 112 and 120. The ATM102 operates under ambient (i.e., atmospheric) conditions and interfaces with a wafer loader (not shown) to bring semiconductor wafers into the integrated cluster tool assembly 100 for processing and return semiconductor wafers after processing. The ATM102 may include a robot to move semiconductor wafers from the wafer loader to the VTM 104. Since the ATM102 is at atmospheric conditions, the robot may be part of a dry robot.
VTM104 operates under vacuum to minimize exposure of the semiconductor wafer surface to the atmosphere as the semiconductor wafer is moved from one processing module to another. Since the VTM104 operates under vacuum and the ATM102 operates at atmospheric conditions, a load lock chamber 110 is placed between the ATM102 and the VTM 104. The load lock chamber 110 provides a controlled interface to allow semiconductor wafers to be transferred from the ATM102 into the VTM 104. In this embodiment, a robot within the ATM102 may be used to load semiconductor wafers into the load lock chamber 110. Separate robots may be disposed within the VTM104 to retrieve semiconductor wafers from the load lock chambers 110 and transfer semiconductor wafers into and out of the process modules (112 and 120). In some embodiments, the load lock is also referred to as an "interfacing chamber" due to its location.
One or more process modules 112 and 120 are integrated with the VTM104 to allow semiconductor wafers to be moved from one process module to another in a controlled environment maintained by the VTM 104. In some embodiments, the processing modules 112-120 may be evenly distributed around the VTM104 and used to perform different processing operations. Some of the processing operations that may be performed using the process modules 112 and 120 include etching operations, rinsing, cleaning, drying operations, plasma operations, deposition operations, plating operations, and the like. For example, process module 112 may be used to perform a deposition operation, process module 114 may be used to perform a cleaning operation, process module 116 may be used to perform a second deposition operation, process module 118 may be used to perform an etch or removal operation, and so on. The VTM104 with the controlled environment enables semiconductor wafers to be transferred into and out of the processing modules 112 and 120 without risk of contamination, and the robot within the VTM104 facilitates transferring semiconductor wafers into and out of the various processing modules 112 and 120 integrated with the VTM 104.
In one embodiment, the replacement station 108 is mounted to a process module (e.g., any of the process modules 112 and 120) within the cluster tool assembly 100. In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the exchange station 108 is mounted to the processing module 118. The replacement station may be configured to mount to a respective process module 112-120 when the consumable components in any other process module 112-120 need to be replaced. For example, the processing module 118 may be used to perform an etching operation. The replacement station 108 is used to retrieve and replace consumable components used in the process modules 118. The exchange station 108 includes a mechanism, such as a pump mechanism (not shown), to draw the exchange station 108 and maintain the exchange station 108 under vacuum when the exchange station 108 is mounted to the process module.
In one embodiment, the replacement station 108 may be coupled to the process module (112) 120 through an isolation valve when a consumable component at the process module (i.e., any of the process modules 112 & 120) needs to be replaced, and the replacement station 108 may be decoupled from the process module (112 & 120) when the consumable component has been successfully replaced. In this embodiment, the replacement station 108 is a movable modular unit designed to be temporarily attached to a process module to complete a desired operation (e.g., replacement of a consumable part), removed when the desired operation of the process module is complete, and either retracted or moved to a different process module where the desired operation to replace the consumable part is performed. For example, the isolation valve enables the change station 108 to be maintained under vacuum.
The change station 108 includes a component buffer to receive and hold consumable components. In some embodiments, the component buffer may include a plurality of compartments for receiving used consumable components retrieved from the process module and new consumable components to be delivered to the process module. In one embodiment, the opening of the change station 108 (where the change station is mounted to the isolation valve) is sized to enable the consumable components to be moved into and out of the change station 108.
Consumable components are hardware components within a processing module that need to be replaced due to continuous exposure to process conditions in the processing module. As a result of the continued exposure of the consumable component to the harsh process conditions used during the processing of semiconductor wafers, the consumable component needs to be closely monitored to determine when damage exceeds an acceptable level so that it can be replaced in a timely manner. For example, in an etch processing module, an edge ring is disposed adjacent to a semiconductor wafer mounted on a chuck assembly to extend a processing region of the semiconductor wafer. During an etching operation, the edge ring is exposed to ion bombardment from a plasma used to form features on the surface of a semiconductor wafer. Over time, the edge ring may be damaged as a result of continued exposure. When damage to the edge ring exceeds an acceptable level, the edge ring needs to be replaced so that damage to the edge ring does not expose other underlying components and otherwise adversely affect semiconductor wafer processing.
In a typical etching operation, when a semiconductor wafer is received in a processing module, ions from a plasma strike the semiconductor wafer surface at an angle that is perpendicular to a plasma sheath formed in a processing region defined above the semiconductor wafer. As the layers of the edge ring wear away due to ion bombardment, the edge of the semiconductor wafer is exposed, causing the plasma sheath to roll along the contour of the semiconductor wafer edge. Thus, ions impinging on the semiconductor wafer surface follow the contour of the (follow) plasma sheath, resulting in the formation of a sloped feature toward the edge of the semiconductor wafer surface. These sloped features can affect the overall yield of semiconductor devices formed on a semiconductor wafer. In addition, as the layers of the edge ring wear away, for example, underlying components (such as the chuck) may be exposed to ions, thereby damaging the chuck surface. To improve yield and avoid damage to any underlying components, the edge ring (i.e., the consumable component) needs to be replaced periodically.
The replacement station 108 mounted to the process module 118 will allow the consumable components (i.e., the edge ring) to be easily replaced without breaking the vacuum in the process module. In one embodiment, the replacement station 108 includes a dedicated robot configured to extend the end effector into a process module (e.g., process module 118) to retrieve the consumable components that need to be replaced and deliver new consumable components. A lift mechanism within the processing module provides access to the consumable components. The robot of the change station 108 may operate to place a new consumable part on the lift pin of the lift mechanism and the lift mechanism will install the new consumable part in place within the processing module.
In one embodiment, to assist in replacing the consumable components, the replacement station is mounted to the process module (e.g., any or each of the process modules 112 and 120) via a first isolation valve. A robot from the change station is used to access and retrieve consumable components from the processing modules and move to a component buffer defined in the change station and provide changed consumable components from the component buffer. In one embodiment, a first isolation valve may be operatively connected to the controller to coordinate retrieval and replacement of consumable components in the process module.
In addition to using a first isolation valve to install a replacement station to a process module, a second isolation valve can be used to couple the process module to a Vacuum Transfer Module (VTM) of the cluster tool assembly 100. When engaged, the second isolation valve is configured to isolate the process module (112) from the rest of the cluster tool assembly 100 such that replacement of consumable components in the process module can be easily performed without affecting the operation of other process modules of the cluster tool assembly 100. Providing a second isolation valve allows a particular process module (any of 112-120) to be taken offline rather than the entire cluster tool assembly 100, while allowing the remainder of the process modules (112-120) within the cluster tool assembly 100 to continue processing semiconductor wafers. In addition, since only certain process modules (e.g., any of 112-120) are taken offline for replacement of consumable parts, it will take considerably less time to restore the process modules (112-120) and cluster tool assembly 100 to a fully operational state. As a result, the time it takes to adjust and qualify the operation of the cluster tool assembly 100 is much shorter. The robot of the VTM104 may be used during semiconductor wafer processing to move semiconductor wafers into and out of the processing modules (112-120).
To allow the robot of the change station 108 to retrieve the consumable components from the process modules (112) and 120), the consumable components must be readily accessible. In one embodiment, the processing module (112) and 120) includes a lift mechanism that provides access to consumable components that need to be replaced. In some embodiments, the lifting mechanism may include a lifting pin that is extendable to move the consumable component to the raised position. The end effector of the robot in the exchange station 108 extends into the process module (112) and slides under the consumable components 120. The lift mechanism then retracts the lift pins to leave the consumable component on the end effector of the manipulator. The end effector with the consumable components is then retracted from the process module (112) and 120 into the exchange station 108. The new consumable part is moved to the process module using the end effector of the robot (112) and the lift pins of the lift mechanism are extended to receive the new consumable part (120). The lift pins of the lift mechanism work together to align the new consumable components into position in the process module (112) and 120. The process of retrieving and replacing consumable components using the lifting mechanism will be discussed in more detail with reference to fig. 4.
In some embodiments, the entire cluster tool assembly 100 may have to be taken offline to replace consumable components. This may occur, for example, when more than one consumable component within more than one process module (112-120) needs to be replaced. Even in such embodiments, the time to take the cluster tool assembly 100 off-line, install the replacement station to the process module (112) and 120, remove and replace the consumable components, adjust the cluster tool assembly 100, and qualify the cluster tool assembly 100 may be much shorter as the replacement station and process module are maintained under vacuum. As a result, the processing conditions (i.e., vacuum) of the cluster tool assembly 100 are not adversely affected during replacement of the consumable part. In addition, due to the use of a robot for the replacement, a more precise retrieval and placement of the consumable components can be designed, thereby avoiding the risk of damage to the consumable components and/or the process modules (112) and/or 120).
In some implementations, the opening at the side of the process module where the exchange station is installed may be sized so that the consumable components may easily fit through the opening. Furthermore, the openings in the process modules (112-120) may be designed to minimize any asymmetry issues that may occur in the process modules (112-120) and in the cluster tool assembly 100 as a whole.
The various embodiments and implementations discussed with reference to fig. 1 enable the replacement station 108 to be temporarily mounted to the process module (112) 120 when the consumable components in the process module (112) 120 require replacement and retracted when replacement of the consumable components is complete. The change station 108 may include a single component buffer having two different holding areas to receive and hold the used consumable components and the new consumable components or alternatively have different component buffers for holding the used consumable components and the new consumable components, respectively. The robot and component buffer provided in the change station 108 allows the consumable components to be transported and retrieved directly to and from the processing module (112) and 120. The isolation valves in the processing module (112) and 120 enable taking only the processing module (112) and not the entire cluster tool assembly 100 offline.
FIG. 2 illustrates an alternative embodiment of the cluster tool assembly 100 in which the change station 108 is configured to be mounted to a Vacuum Transfer Module (VTM) 104 disposed in the cluster tool assembly 100, rather than to a process module (112) 118. The VTM104 includes a robot used during processing of semiconductor wafers to move the semiconductor wafers from the load lock chamber 110 to the process modules 112 and 118 and to and from one or more of the process modules 112 integrated with the VTM104 and 118. The robot includes an end effector for receiving, holding, and moving semiconductor wafers between different process modules. Individual openings are defined in the VTM104 to allow the change station 108 to be installed such that the change station 108 is aligned with the openings defined in the VTM 104. Where symmetry is important, the openings in the VTM104 are defined to maintain the uniformity and symmetry of the VTM104 and the uniformity and symmetry of the cluster tool assembly 100. For example, dummy openings with dummy gates may be defined in VTM104 relative to the openings to maintain uniformity and symmetry of VTM 104. Alternatively, if dummy openings are already present in the VTM104 and the openings are large enough to move consumable parts, the exchange station 108 may be mounted to the dummy openings in order to continue to maintain uniformity and symmetry of the cluster tool assembly 100.
Typically, the opening in VTM104 is sized to accommodate the semiconductor wafer and the carrier/robot used to move the semiconductor wafer into and out of VTM 104. However, consumable components larger than the semiconductor wafer may not fit through. For example, an edge ring disposed to surround a semiconductor wafer received in the process module (112) and (118) is wider than the semiconductor wafer. In this case, the edge ring as a whole may not be able to fit through an opening designed to move a semiconductor wafer without redesigning the opening. In some cases, redesigning the opening of the VTM104 may not be a viable option because it may affect the symmetry of the cluster tool assembly. Thus, instead of redesigning the opening of the VTM104 and creating an asymmetry in the cluster tool assembly 100, segmented consumables may be used so that each segment may fit through the opening. For example, the edge ring used to enclose the semiconductor wafers in the processing modules may be designed as a segmented edge ring made of two or more components, each component designed to fit through openings of the VTM104 and the exchange station 108. In this embodiment, the segmented edge rings may be individually retrieved and replaced.
When replacing consumable components, in particular multi-component, segmented consumable components, each segment of the consumable component must be correctly aligned and fixed in the process module so that no gaps between the segments are defined. It should be noted that in processing operations such as high aspect ratio etching operations, the presence of gaps between any of the components of the etch processing module will cause ions to flow through and damage any underlying components. For example, the gap of the edge ring in a high aspect ratio etcher module will cause high energy ions to flow through to the underlying chuck on which the edge ring may be disposed, thereby damaging the surface of the chuck. To prevent gaps from forming, the segmented consumable components may be designed to ensure that each segment fits closely with the other segments when each segment is installed in the process module. Thus, in some implementations, segmented or multi-part consumable components can be designed with interlocking segments. Alternatively, the consumable components may be designed with overlapping sections to prevent ions or process gases/chemicals from finding a direct flow path to the underlying component. For example, in some implementations, consumable components may be comprised of inner and outer components that may fit entirely or in sections through an opening defined between the VTM104 and the exchange station, and are installed in the process module with one component overlapping the other, thereby preventing gaps from forming. Other variations in the design of consumable components may be implemented to enable consumable components to be moved into and out of VTM104 without having to redesign an opening designed to maintain symmetry within the cluster tool assembly.
In one embodiment, instead of using a dedicated robot at the exchange station 108, the robot used in the VTM104 to move semiconductor wafers into and out of the process modules may also be used to retrieve and replace consumable components. In some implementations, the end effector of the robot used to move the semiconductor wafers between the process modules is used to receive, hold, and move consumable components between the process modules 112 and 118 and the exchange station 108. In other implementations, the robot of the VTM104 is designed with different end effectors for moving consumable parts and semiconductor wafers. An end effector is a component typically defined in a robot for retrieving, supporting, holding, picking up, lifting, moving or rotating a movable component, such as a semiconductor wafer or consumable component. The movable member may be held in a plane of any orientation. A separate end effector may be provided to move the consumable components and the semiconductor wafer separately to prevent contamination of the semiconductor wafer.
In an alternative embodiment, a dedicated robot in the replacement station 108 may operate with the robot of the VTM104 to extract and replace consumable components in the process modules. For example, a robot of VTM104 may be used to extract used consumable components from a process module and move them to an intermediate storage area (a staging area) defined between VTM104 and change station 108. A dedicated robot of the change station 108 may be used to move used consumable components from the intermediate storage area to the component buffer. Similarly, a dedicated robot of the change station 108 may be used to move new consumable components from the component buffer of the change station 108 to the intermediate storage area, and a robot of the VTM104 may be used to move new consumable components from the intermediate storage area to the processing module. In one embodiment, the intermediate storage area may have a first area for receiving used consumables and a second area for receiving new consumables. The lift mechanism in the process module (112) 118 is used to install new consumable components in the process module (112) 118.
The design of the change station 108 in the embodiment shown in fig. 2 is similar to the design of the change station 108 discussed with reference to fig. 1. For example, the replacement station 108 of fig. 2 includes a mechanism (e.g., a pump) for maintaining the replacement station 108 under vacuum when the replacement station 108 is mounted to the VTM 104. Maintaining the process conditions at the change station 108 similar to those of the VTM104 (i.e., under vacuum) will ensure that the process conditions within the VTM104 are not adversely affected during the replacement of the consumable components. One or more component buffers are defined within the replacement station 108 to receive and contain used consumable components and new consumable components.
The design of the processing module (118) shown in fig. 2 differs slightly from the processing module (118) defined in fig. 1. Except that the process module shown in figure 2 does not include a second opening. For example, when the exchange station 108 is installed directly at the VTM104 and access to the process modules (118) is provided from the exchange station 108 through the VTM104, the process modules (118) do not require a second opening for installation of the exchange station 108. Additionally, a single isolation valve is used to provide access to the process modules (118) through the VTM104 during replacement of consumable components and to isolate the process modules during processing of semiconductor wafers. It should be noted that the replacement station 108 is maintained at a vacuum so that consumable components can be easily replaced without adversely affecting process conditions in the cluster tool assembly 100. Accordingly, conditioning the cluster tool assembly 100 and qualifying the cluster tool assembly 100 for processing of semiconductor wafers can be accomplished in less time because no purge/pump processing is required and other steps of qualifying the cluster tool assembly are performed in less time. In some implementations, the replacement station 108 may be permanently installed on the VTM 104.
Fig. 3 shows another embodiment of the cluster tool assembly 100 in which the change station 108 is mounted to an Atmospheric Transport Module (ATM) 102. For example, the robot in the ATM102 of the cluster tool assembly 100 that is used to move semiconductor wafers from the wafer loader to the load lock chamber 110 is also used to move consumable parts to and from the change station 108. In this embodiment, the exchange station 108 mounted to the ATM102 is maintained at the same atmospheric conditions as those of the ATM 102. Thus, the change station 108 does not require a pump or similar mechanism to maintain the change station 108 under vacuum. In some implementations, the replacement station 108 may be permanently mounted to the ATM 102.
In addition to the ATM102, the cluster tool assembly 100 shown in FIG. 3 includes a Vacuum Transfer Module (VTM) 104, and a plurality of process modules 112 integrated with the VTM104 and 120. A load lock chamber 110 is defined between the ATM102 and the VTM104 and serves as an interface to move semiconductor wafers from the ATM102 to the VTM104 while maintaining process conditions in the ATM102 and the VTM 104.
The load lock chamber 110 of the cluster tool assembly 100 is designed to handle both semiconductor wafers and consumable parts. A separate intermediate storage area (e.g., compartment) may also be provided in the loadlock chamber 110 for receiving semiconductor wafers and consumable parts to avoid contamination of the semiconductor wafers. The intermediate reserve area in the load lock chamber 110 designed to receive the consumable components may also be configured to provide a separate intermediate reserve area for receiving used consumable components and new consumable components. The opening defined in the load lock chamber 110 is designed to accommodate consumable parts and semiconductor wafers. Alternatively, when the opening is not designed to fit a consumable component, a segmented consumable component may be used such that each segment of the consumable component may fit through the opening defined by the load lock chamber 110.
In the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, the robot in the VTM104 that moves the semiconductor wafers from the load lock chamber 110 to the process modules (112) integrated in the VTM104 or from one process module (112) to another process module is also used to move the consumable parts between the load lock chamber 110 and the process modules (112) 120.
In some implementations, in addition to the manipulators of the ATM102 and VTM104, the change station 108 may also include a dedicated manipulator configured to move consumable components between the component buffer of the change station and the ATM 102. In such an embodiment, the robot of the ATM102 may be used to move consumable components and semiconductor wafers between the ATM102 and the load lock chamber 110, and the robot of the VTM104 may be used to move consumable components and semiconductor wafers between the load lock chamber 110 and the process modules (112 and 120). In one implementation, a single end effector may be provided in the robot of the ATM102 and VTM104 that may be engaged at different times to move both the semiconductor wafer and the consumable part. In another embodiment, separate end effectors may be provided in the robots of the ATM102 and VTM104, one for moving semiconductor wafers and the other for moving consumable components. The elevator mechanism is used to properly align and mount the new consumable components in place within the process module (112) and (120).
In one embodiment, FIG. 3A illustrates a more detailed version of the cluster tool assembly 100 that includes additional modules than the version illustrated in FIG. 3. As in FIG. 3, the embodiment shown in FIG. 3A illustrates a change station 108 coupled to the first side 101a of the ATM102 and using the robots of the ATM102 and VTM104 to change consumable parts. In this embodiment, in addition to the exchange station 108 being mounted to the first side 101a of the ATM102, one or more wafer loaders 115 are mounted to the first side 101a of the atmospheric transport module 102. The wafer loader 115 may be a standard wafer loader, such as a Front Opening Unified Pod (FOUP) or a custom wafer loader designed to couple to the ATM 102. The change station 108 and wafer loader 115 are configured to be temporarily or permanently coupled to the ATM102 via a particular load port (not shown) defined on the first side 101a of the ATM 102. The doors of the exchange station 108 and the wafer loader 115 (whether a standard or custom wafer loader) are designed to be compatible with the opening of a standard load port defined on the first side 101a of the ATM 102. Wafer loader 115 includes a wafer buffer zone comprising a plurality of compartments for receiving and holding processed or unprocessed wafers. It should be noted that wafer and substrate may be used interchangeably in this application and refer to a sheet of semiconductor material used in the manufacture of electronic devices, such as integrated circuits. In some embodiments, the exchange station 108 is similar in structure and design to the wafer loader 115 (e.g., FOUP) and includes a component buffer zone 224 having a plurality of compartments 207, the compartments 207 configured to receive and store new and/or used consumable components 208.
In addition to exchange station 108 and wafer loader 115, one or more buffer stations 113 may be coupled to ATM 102. Buffer station 113 may include a dynamic aligner that is generally used to provide an alignment input to a computer communicatively connected to ATM 102. The alignment input is used to align the wafer as it is transferred to the load lock chamber 110. For example, robot 103 within ATM102 may be used to move a wafer from one of wafer loaders 115 to a chuck disposed within a dynamic aligner within buffer station 113. A chuck is configured to rotate the wafer. Sensors within the dynamic aligner are used to detect one or more notches located along the edge of the wafer, the eccentricity of the notches, and provide this data as an alignment input to a computer. The computer may provide an alignment input to the robot so that the robot can use the alignment input to transfer the wafer from the dynamic aligner to the load lock chamber 110 so that the wafer is properly aligned when the wafer is transferred. In some implementations, one or more of the dynamic aligners can be used to provide an alignment input for the consumable components to a computer to ensure that the consumable components are properly aligned when delivered to the load lock chamber 110. It should be noted that the alignment input for aligning the wafer may be different from the alignment input for aligning the consumable part. In other implementations, the alignment of the consumable components may be performed within the replacement station. In such implementations, no further alignment is necessary when transporting the consumable components to the load lock chamber 110.
In some embodiments, the robot 103 in the ATM102, which is designed to move wafers, is also designed to move consumable parts 208 from the change station 108 to the load lock chamber 110. The existing design of the robot 103 includes an end effector mechanism with "fingers" for holding the wafer. However, the fingers on the end effector mechanism are designed to support the wafer and are therefore short and not designed to provide contact support for the consumable parts, since the diameter of the consumable parts is typically larger than the diameter of the wafer. To accommodate this difference, in one embodiment, the fingers of the end effector mechanism of the robot 103 in the ATM102 are extended to a length sufficient to enable the fingers to provide contact support for the consumable components 208. While the end effector mechanism with extended fingers has been described as being implemented within the robot 103 of the ATM102, it should be noted that the end effector mechanism described herein may also be implemented within the robot 105 of the VTM 104.
In an alternative embodiment, short fingers of the robot's end effector mechanism within the ATM102 are used to support the ring carrier. The surface of the ring carrier is used to support the consumable components. The ring carrier may be in the form of a carrier plate which is stored in the housing of the exchange station 108 and is taken out when the consumable components need to be transported to the load lock chamber 110. In this embodiment, the fingers of the end effector do not have to be redesigned, as the existing fingers of the end effector can be used to support the carrier plate. Details of the end effector mechanisms used within the ATM102 and/or VTM104 will be described in detail with reference to fig. 6A-6C. A carrier plate for use in supporting and transporting a consumable part will be described with reference to fig. 8A-8B, 9A-9B.
Replacing a consumable component in a process module 112 integrated within the cluster tool assembly 100 requires access to the process module 112 and the consumable component 208 in the process module 112. Access to the process module 112 has been discussed with reference to fig. 1-3, wherein the replacement station 108 is mounted directly to the process module (112) 120), or the vacuum transport module 104 or the atmospheric transport module 102, through which access to the process module (112) 118, 120) is provided. Once the processing module (112) 120 is accessed, access to the consumable components needs to be provided so that the consumable components can be safely retrieved and replaced without damaging the consumable components and without damaging other hardware components in the processing module (112) 120.
Fig. 4 illustrates an exemplary embodiment of a lift mechanism that may be used in the process module (112) and 120) of the cluster tool assembly 100 to provide access to consumable components 208 that need to be replaced. In some implementations, consumable components 208 are disposed above bottom edge ring 236 and adjacent to cover ring 232. The bottom edge ring 236 is disposed above the base ring 240 and, in some implementations, proximate to the sleeve ring 238. An insulator ring 234 may be disposed between the lift mechanism and the sidewall of the chamber. The lift mechanism is configured to move consumable component 208 to a raised position such that consumable component 208 is accessible. In some implementations, consumable component 208 is an edge ring disposed adjacent to a semiconductor wafer 150 received in a process module during processing. The lift mechanism includes a plurality of lift pins 202 coupled to a plurality of actuators 204. For example, the lift pins may be distributed along a plane to allow the lift pins to contact and move the consumable components at different points. In some implementations, lift pins distributed on a plane may be grouped into different groups, with each group of lift pins operating independently to access and lift different consumable components. In some implementations, the actuator 204 is a vacuum-sealed actuator equipped with a plurality of lift pins 202.
The actuator 204 is driven by an actuator driver 206. In the disengaged mode, the lift pins 202 remain retracted within the housing defined by the lift mechanism and out of contact with the consumable components 208. When the consumable component 208 needs to be replaced, the actuator 204 is driven by the actuator driver 206. The driven actuator 204 extends the lifting pin 202 out of the housing to contact the consumable 208 and move the consumable 208 to the raised position. Since the process module (e.g., 118) is maintained in a vacuum state, when the consumable components are raised, the consumable components are raised to the vacuum space 210. The robot of the VTM104 or the change station 108 extends the end effector into the processing module 118 and allows it to slide under the elevated consumable components 208. In some embodiments, the end effector attached to the robot is shaped like a spatula so that the end effector can support the raised consumable components. Once the end effector has been slid into place, the actuator 204 retracts the lift pin 202 into the housing, causing the consumable component 208 to rest on the end effector. The robot is then manipulated to pull the end effector back into the VTM104 or the change station 108, depending on which robot is used to retrieve the consumable component 208, bringing the consumable component 208 back with it. When a new consumable component 208 needs to be placed in a process module (e.g., 118), the reverse order is followed. The lift mechanism of the process module (e.g., 118) is used to properly mount the consumable components in place on the process module (118) so that the process module (118) and cluster tool assembly 100 are operational.
In some implementations, a power source connected to the actuator driver 206 of the lift mechanism, in addition to providing power to the actuator to operate the lift pins to raise the consumable 208, may also supply power to the consumable through the lift pins. In such implementations, the actuator 204 and the lift pin 202 may be made of an electrically conductive material to provide power to the consumer 208. In some implementations, the surface area of the lift pin that is in contact with the consumable component can serve as an electrical contact and be used to provide power from a power source to the consumable component. In some implementations, the power source is a Radio Frequency (RF) power source to enable the lift pins 202 to supply RF power to the consumable components 208. Additional details of using an RF power source to supply power to a consumer are described in commonly owned and co-pending U.S. provisional patent application No.62/191,817 entitled "Extreme Edge shear and wave Profile Tuning Through Edge-Localized Ion target Control and Plasma Operation," filed on 13/7/2015, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. In some implementations, the lift pins 202 may be switched. The converter may be used to control the amount of power supplied to the consumer 208. In some implementations, the converter can be used to supply different power to the consumer 208. In some implementations, the power supplied to the consumable component 208 can be used to heat the consumable component 208. For example, when the consumable component 208 is an edge ring, the power supplied by the power source may be used to provide a temperature controlled edge ring. In some implementations, power may be provided to the consumer 208 by other means, such as by capacitive coupling. Additional details of using alternative means, such as capacitive coupling, to provide power to a consumer 208, such as an Edge Ring, are described in commonly owned and co-pending U.S. provisional patent application No.62/206753 entitled "Edge Ring Assembly for Improving Feature Profile Edge of Wafer", filed on 18/8/2015, which is incorporated herein by reference. It should be noted that the different ways for powering the consumable components 208 discussed herein are merely exemplary, and that other forms of powering the edge ring may be used. In some implementations, consumable component 208 (a single component or different components of a multi-component consumable component) can be aligned and mounted in place in a processing module (e.g., 118) using one or more magnets. For example, a lift mechanism disposed in a process module (e.g., 118) may include a surface on which consumable components 208 are supported. One or more magnets may be provided on the underside of the surface of the elevator mechanism on which the consumable components 208 are supported. Magnets disposed in the lift mechanism may be used to align consumable components in the proper location within the process module (e.g., 118).
In some implementations, the lift mechanism may be connected to an air compressor or other source of compressed pressure to allow for pneumatic operation of the lift mechanism. In some implementations, a lift mechanism can be used to provide electrostatic clamping to clamp consumable component 208 in place within a process module (e.g., 118). In these implementations, the lift mechanism may be connected to a Direct Current (DC) power source to allow the lift pins 202 to provide DC power to clamp the consumable components 208 in place within the process module (e.g., 118).
In one embodiment, FIG. 5A illustrates an exemplary cluster tool assembly identifying various components for replacing consumable components within the process module 118. The processing module 118 may be an etcher module that can be used to generate Transformer Coupled Plasma (TCP) for performing conductive etches or Capacitively Coupled Plasma (CCP) for performing dielectric etches, or to perform Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) or Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD), or any other type of etch on a semiconductor wafer. Alternatively, the processing module 118 may be used to perform any other processing operation (e.g., deposition, plating, etc.) to define different features on a semiconductor wafer.
The change station 108 may include a parts buffer 224. In one embodiment, the component buffer 224 includes a plurality of compartments 207 configured to receive used consumable components 208 retrieved from the process module and new consumable components 208 that need to be delivered to the process module. Alternatively, a separate component buffer 224 may be used to separately store used consumable components 208 and new consumable components 208. The replacement operator 214 within the replacement station 108 may be used to move new consumable components 208 from the compartments 207 of the component buffer 224 to the process module 118 and retrieve used consumable components 208 from the process module 118 and store them in the compartments 207 of the component buffer 224. The change manipulator 214 comprises a manipulator 215, which manipulator 215 is configured to move laterally, vertically and/or radially such that the end effector 213 of the change manipulator 214 has access to the component buffer 224 and the consumable components 208 in the processing module 118. The end effector may be configured to access, retrieve, and transport consumable components 208 to a component buffer 224 or process module. In some implementations, the end effector can be a special end effector designed to retrieve, pick, lift, support, hold, move, or rotate consumable components in any plane. The end effector of the replacement manipulator 214 may be manipulated to extend and retract during operation so that consumable components may be retrieved from the process module and stored in the component buffer 224. In some implementations, the end effector can be configured to move in a radial, lateral, and/or vertical direction to provide greater flexibility during the retrieval operation. The replacement manipulator 214 is connected to the controller 220 to control the movement of the robot arm 215 and the end effector 213 of the replacement manipulator 214.
The exchange station 108 may also include a vacuum control module 231 connected to the pump 233 for manipulating the process conditions in the exchange station 108. In some implementations, the replacement station 108 is connected to the controller 220 so that the operation or action of the pump 233 can be coordinated through the vacuum control module 231 during replacement of the consumable components.
A first isolation valve 216 is provided between the change station 108 and the process module 118 to allow the change station 108 to be mounted to the process module 118. In some implementations, the first isolation valve 216 may be a gate valve. The process module 118 includes a first side and a second side, the first side of the process module 118 being coupled to the Vacuum Transfer Module (VTM) 104 and the second side of the process module 118 being coupled to a first side of the first isolation valve 216. A second side of the first isolation valve 216 is coupled to the replacement station 108. For example, the coupling manipulates doors 217, 219 defined in the exchange station 108 and the process module 118, respectively, to enable the robot 215 in the exchange station 108 to access the process module 118. A first side of the second isolation valve 216 'is coupled to the VTM104, and a second side of the second isolation valve 216' is coupled to a first side of the process module 118. The coupling allows manipulation of the doors 227, 229 that cover corresponding openings defined in the processing module 118 and the VTM104, respectively, to enable a robot in the VTM104 to access the processing module 118 and move semiconductor wafers into and out of the processing module 118 during processing. The first and second isolation valves 216, 216' are connected to the controller 220 to coordinate the coupling of the process modules 118 with the VTM104 and the replacement station 108.
The process module 118 includes an upper electrode 218 that may be used to provide process chemistry to a process region defined in the process module 118. For example, the upper electrode 218 may be connected to a power source (not shown) to provide power to the process chemistry in the processing region in order to generate a plasma. In some embodiments, the power source may be an RF power source connected to the upper electrode 218 through a matching network (not shown). Alternatively, the upper electrode may be electrically grounded.
The processing module 118 also includes a lower electrode 230. In some implementations, the lower electrode 230 is configured to receive the semiconductor wafer 150 for processing. In some implementations, the lower electrode 230 is an electrostatic chuck. The lower electrode 230 can be coupled to a power source (not shown) to provide power to the lower electrode 230 during processing. Alternatively, the lower electrode 230 may be electrically grounded.
The processing module 118 includes a lift mechanism 221 to enable the consumable components 208 to be moved to a raised position. The lift mechanism 221 is similar to the lift mechanism discussed with reference to fig. 4 and includes a plurality of lift pins 202 and an actuator 204 to lift the consumable components to the raised position, with an actuator driver 206 connected to the actuator 204 to provide power to drive the actuator 204. The actuator drive 206 may be coupled to the controller 220 to control operation of the lift mechanism 221 during replacement of the consumable components.
The controller 220 includes a vacuum state control 223 and transfer logic 225 to facilitate coordinated operation of the various components connected to the controller 220. In one implementation, the replacement station 108 is brought into contact with the first isolation valve 216 when a consumable component is to be replaced in the process module 118. In response to detecting the replacement station 108 at the first isolation valve 216, a signal is sent from the first isolation valve 216 to the controller 220. The controller 220 then coordinates the coupling of the change station 108 to the process modules 118 and maintains the vacuum at the change station 108. For example, in response to the detection signal received from the first isolation valve 216, the vacuum state control 223 of the controller 220 may send a signal to the vacuum control 231 to begin the coupling process of the change station 108 with the process module 118. In response to the signal received from the vacuum state control 223, the vacuum control 231 may activate the pump 233 to allow the pump 233 to enable the replacement station to be placed in a vacuum state. Once the change station 108 has reached the vacuum state, a signal is sent from the vacuum control 231 to the vacuum state control 223. The vacuum state control 223 then sends a signal to the first isolation valve 216 to couple the replacement station with the process module 118. In response, the first isolation valve 216 ensures that any intermediate regions of the first isolation valve 216 between the exchange station 108 and the process module 118 are maintained under vacuum. Once secured, the first isolation valve 216 performs the coupling of the process module 118 to a first side of the first isolation valve 216 and the coupling of the replacement station 108 to a second side of the first isolation valve 216. Further testing may be performed to ensure that the intermediate region of the first isolation valve 216 and the change station 108 are under vacuum before the doors 217, 219 are manipulated to provide access to the process module 118.
As part of the coupling operation, the vacuum state control device 223 may coordinate the operation of the second isolation valve 216' so as to maintain the doors 227, 229 covering the corresponding openings defined in the process module 118 and the VTM104 integrated with the process module 118 that close and seal the process module 118. During coupling, the lift mechanism 221 in the process module 118 is held in a disengaged mode, the lift pins 202 retract into the housing of the lift mechanism 221, and the consumable components 208 rest on their installed positions. For example, consumable component 208 is an edge ring. When the semiconductor wafer 150 is present in the process module 118, the edge ring is positioned adjacent to and substantially surrounding the semiconductor wafer 150 in the edge ring mounting position.
Once the coupled process is complete, a signal is sent from the first isolation valve 216 to the controller 220, and in some embodiments, a signal is sent from the second isolation valve 216' to the controller 220. In response, the controller 220 activates the transmit logic 225. The transfer logic 225 is configured to coordinate the movement of the robot 215, the end effector 213 of the change operator 214 in the change station 108, and the actuator drive 206 of the lift mechanism 221 in the process module 118 to allow the end effector 213 to retrieve a consumable component from the process module 118 and move to a compartment 207 in a component buffer 224 defined in the change station 108, and move a replacement for that consumable component from the compartment 207 in the component buffer 224 back to the process module 118 for installation. The lift mechanism 221 is manipulated to install a replacement consumable component in place in the process module 118.
In one embodiment, FIG. 5B illustrates a subsequent process to retrieve consumable components 208 from the process module 118. Consumable components 208 are typically replaced before the semiconductor wafers are received into the process modules 118 for processing. According to this embodiment, once the replacement station 108 is coupled to the process module 118 through the first isolation valve 216 and the second isolation valve 216' seals the doors 227, 229 to the VTM104, the transmit logic 225 of the controller 220 is used to send signals to the replacement operator 214 and the actuator driver 206 to retrieve the consumable components from the process module and replace them with new consumable components. The transfer logic 225 sends signals to manipulate the robot 215 and end effector 213 to allow the end effector 213 to extend into the processing module 118 to retrieve consumable components. At the same time, the transfer logic 225 operates the actuator driver 206 to cause the actuator 204 to move the lift pin 202 away from the housing defined in the lift mechanism 221 to move the consumable component 208 from the installed position to the raised position, as shown in fig. 5B. The end effector 213 slides under the raised consumable to substantially support it. The actuator driver 206 is then manipulated to enable the actuator 204 to retract the lift pin 202 into the housing in the lift mechanism 221 to allow the raised consumable component 208 to be placed on the end effector 213 of the replacement operator 214. The end effector 213 of the change operator 214 is then manipulated to retract the consumable component 208 with it into the change station 108. The end effector 213 is then manipulated to move the retrieved consumable components 208 to the compartments 207 of the component buffer 224.
New consumable components 208 are moved from different compartments 207 of the component buffer 224 to the process module 118 in a similar manner. When a new consumable component 208 is moved into the processing module 118, the actuator drive 206 is manipulated to cause the actuator 204 to extend the lift pin 202 away from the housing to receive the new consumable component 208. The actuator 204 allows the lift pin 202 to be lowered such that the consumable components 208 are secured in a mounted position in the process module 118. During the replacement of consumable components, the vacuum condition control 223 continuously interacts with the vacuum control 231 to ensure that the pump 233 continuously maintains the replacement station in a vacuum condition to match the vacuum condition maintained in the process module 118.
Once the consumable component 208 is replaced, the controller 220 is used to coordinate the withdrawal of the replacement station 108 from the process module 118. In accordance therewith, the controller 220 sends a signal to the first isolation valve 216 to close the doors 217, 219 between the process module 118 and the replacement station 108 and a signal to the second isolation valve 216' to open the doors 227, 229 to allow the VTM104 access to the process module 118.
In some implementations, the processing module 118 may make the adjustment before the processing module returns to the activation operation. This adjustment operation may take less time since the replacement of consumable components is performed in vacuum and only the process module 118 needs to be adjusted. A signal may then be sent from the vacuum state control 223 to the vacuum control 231 to allow the pump 233 to clean the change station 108. The change station 108 may then be removed from the process module 118.
Fig. 5C illustrates a subsequent process of replacing consumable components in one embodiment of the cluster tool assembly shown in fig. 2, wherein the replacement station 108 is mounted to the VTM104 instead of the process module 118. In this embodiment, the replacement station 108 is mounted to the Vacuum Transfer Module (VTM) 104 through a first isolation valve 216 such that a first side of the first isolation valve 216 is coupled to a first side of the VTM 104. The change station 108 is coupled to a second side of the first isolation valve 216. The second isolation valve 216' is arranged such that a first side of the second isolation valve 216' is coupled to the process module 118 and a second side of the second isolation valve 216' is coupled to a second side of the VTM 104. The first isolation valve 216 is configured to operate doors 237, 239 that cover corresponding openings defined in the change station 108 and the VTM104, respectively, while the second isolation valve 216' is configured to operate doors 227, 229 that cover corresponding openings defined in the VTM104 and the process module 118, respectively, so as to allow a robot in the VTM104 to access, retrieve, and move consumable components between the process module 118 and the compartment 207 of the component buffer 224 in the change station 108. The change station 108 shown in fig. 5C does not include a dedicated change manipulator 214 having a robot arm 215 and an end effector 213. The robot 235 is operatively coupled to the controller 220 so as to allow the controller to coordinate the operation of the robot 235. Moreover, the replacement station, the first isolation valve 216, the VTM104, the second isolation valve 216', and the process module 118 are coupled to the controller 220 to synchronize access between the replacement station and the process module during replacement of the consumable part while the process module 118, the VTM104, and the replacement station 108 are maintained under vacuum.
The process of installing the replacement station 108 to the VTM104 is similar to the embodiment discussed with reference to FIG. 5A, except that the replacement station 108 is installed to the VTM104 instead of the processing module 118. The process of replacing the consumable components 208 is similar to the embodiment discussed with reference to fig. 5A, except that the controller 220 coordinates the robot arm 235 of the VTM104 instead of the end effector 213, robot arm 215 of the replacement station 108 discussed in fig. 5A.
In an alternative embodiment, the change station 108 may include a change manipulator 214 (not shown) having a robot arm 215 and an end effector 213, wherein the change manipulator 214 is operatively connected to a controller 220. The controller 220 is used to control the coordination of the robot 215, end effector 213, and robot 235 during the replacement of consumable parts. In this embodiment, robot 215 and end effector 213 may be used to retrieve and move consumable components between component buffer 224 and VTM104, while robot 235 of VTM104 may be used to move consumable components between VTM104 and processing module 118.
It should be noted that in the embodiment shown in FIG. 5C, the second isolation valve 216' is not used to isolate the process module 118 from the rest of the cluster tool assembly 100 during replacement of the consumable part. This is due to the fact that access to the processing modules is provided through VTM104 in this embodiment. As a result, during processing of semiconductor wafers, the second isolation valve 216' is configured to provide access when consumable components need to be replaced while enabling selective isolation of the process modules 118. In this embodiment, since the exchange station, VTM104, and process modules 118 are all maintained under vacuum during the replacement of consumable parts, adjustment of cluster tool assembly 100 will require a shorter time after the consumable parts are replaced.
Fig. 6A illustrates an end effector mechanism 70 used in the robot 103 of the ATM102 to transfer wafers between the wafer loader 115 and the load lock chamber 110. As shown in fig. 6A, the end effector mechanism 70 includes a wrist plate 701, the wrist plate 701 being connectable on one side to a robot, such as the robot 103 in the ATM102, and on the other side to a mounting boom. In some embodiments, the mounting arm is made from a single sheet of stainless steel material. A finger assembly 705 is mounted to a second side of the mounting arm. In some embodiments, the finger assembly 705 is mounted to the mounting arm using a spring-loaded mounting to provide a way to horizontally adjust the finger assembly 705. The finger assembly 705 includes a pair of fingers 707, the fingers 707 extending a length sufficient to support the wafer but insufficient to support the consumable part 208, as shown in fig. 6A. In some embodiments, the wrist plate 701 and finger assembly 705 of the end effector mechanism 70 are made of aluminum material. In some embodiments, the length L1-a of the finger assembly 705 is about 280 millimeters and the length L1-b of the fingers 707 is about 103 millimeters.
The fingers 707 of the finger assembly 705 may extend to accommodate the consumable components 208. However, if the fingers 707 of the finger assembly 705 are extended, the stainless steel material used in the end effector mechanism 70 of fig. 6A may cause the fingers 707 to deflect from the wafer transport plane due to the increase in payload due to the additional material. The amount of deflection will make the end effector mechanism 70 less than ideal for use in confined spaces (e.g., space within a cluster tool assembly) where precision in the plane of transport is desired. Therefore, instead of redesigning the finger assembly 705 to extend the fingers 707, the original design of the finger assembly 705 is retained. The original design of the finger assembly 705 was used to transport the consumable components by enabling the finger assembly 705 to support the ring carrier. The ring carrier in turn serves to support the consumable components 208. Details of the loop carrier will be described with reference to fig. 8A-8B.
Fig. 6B, 6B-1, and 6C illustrate an exemplary end effector mechanism 700 for use in a robot within cluster tool assembly 100, in some embodiments. FIG. 6B illustrates a top view, FIG. 6B-1 illustrates a side view, and FIG. 6C illustrates a side oblique view of an exemplary end effector mechanism 700 for receiving and transporting consumable components. The end effector mechanism 700 shown in fig. 6B, 6B-1, and 6C is redesigned so that the end effector mechanism 700 is capable of transporting consumable components in addition to wafers. It should be noted that the end effector mechanism 700 shown in fig. 6B, 6B-1, and 6C may be implemented in the robot 105 within the VTM104 and/or the robot 103 within the ATM 102. The redesigned end effector mechanism 700 includes a wrist plate 702 that may be mounted to the robot at one end and to a mounting boom 704 at the opposite end. Mounting boom 704 is defined by a top plate 704a and a bottom plate 704B, as shown in fig. 6B-1. In some embodiments, top plate 704a of mounting boom 704 is made of a stainless steel material, while bottom plate 704b of mounting boom 704 is made of aluminum. Variations in the materials used for the top and bottom plates can be implemented as long as the function of the mounting arm support is maintained. In some embodiments, a spring-loaded mount may be implemented between the top plate 704a and the wrist plate 702.
A finger assembly 710 having a pair of fingers 706 is clamped between the top plate 704a and the bottom plate 704b of the mounting boom 704, the pair of fingers 706 extending outwardly from the mounting boom 704. In some embodiments, finger assembly 710 of end effector mechanism 700 is made of a ceramic material. The ceramic material provides rigidity to the fingers 706 and finger assemblies 710, thereby reducing deflection from the ring transport plane, particularly when supporting wafers and/or consumable parts. Additionally, the ceramic is lighter weight, thereby resulting in a reduction in the payload on the finger assembly 710. Clamping provides a stable mounting of the finger assembly 710 while ensuring that it does not cause any stress fractures within the ceramic finger assembly 710. In addition, the lightweight ceramic material enables the finger assembly 710 to be substantially parallel to the alignment ring transfer plane so that consumable parts can be smoothly transferred into and out of the load lock chamber 110. A first pair of consumable contact pads 708a is defined at the proximal end of the finger assembly 710, and a second pair of consumable contact pads 708b is defined at the distal end of the finger assembly 710, adjacent the front end of the fingers 706 of the finger assembly 710. The length L3-a between consumable contact pads 708a and 708b is defined to be about 301 millimeters. Likewise, a third pair of substrate contact pads 708c is disposed proximate to the first pair of consumable contact pads 708a, and a fourth pair of substrate contact pads 708d is disposed proximate to the second pair of consumable contact pads 708 b. The third and fourth pairs of substrate contact pads are disposed within the first and second pairs of consumable contact pads. The length L3-b between substrate contact pads 708c and 708d is defined to be about 133 millimeters.
Referring now to fig. 6B, finger assembly 710 has a proximal end 710a defined adjacent mounting arm 704 and a distal end defined at the forward end of pair of fingers 706. In some embodiments, the length L2-a is defined to cover at least a diameter of the consumable component 208 when the consumable component 208 is received so that the consumable component can be supported. For example, the length L2-a of finger assembly 710 is defined to be at least about 360 millimeters, and the length L2-b of pair of fingers 706 is defined to be at least 182 millimeters. The finger assembly 710 is used to receive and transport both the consumable components 208 and the wafer. For example, the finger assembly 710 is configured to transport a 300mm wafer and a consumable part, such as an edge ring, surrounding the 300mm wafer. In other embodiments, the finger assembly 710 is configured to transport a 200mm wafer, or a 450mm wafer, or any other size wafer, and a consumable part, such as an edge ring, surrounding the correspondingly sized wafer. In these embodiments, the finger assembly 710 is sized to support an appropriately sized wafer and consumable component.
To facilitate transport of the consumable components 208 and wafers, a plurality of contact pads are provided on the top surface of the finger assembly 710 at different distances to support the consumable components and wafers as they are received. In some embodiments, separate sets of contact pads are provided so that the consumable components and the wafer have different contact surfaces on the finger assembly 710. Such an arrangement may be desirable to reduce contamination of the wafer when the same finger assembly 710 is used to transport consumable parts. A first pair of consumable contact pads 708a may be disposed on the top surface of finger assembly 710 at or near the proximal end 710a proximate mounting arm 704. A second pair of consumable contact pads 708b is disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly 710 at or near the distal end 710b immediately adjacent to the front ends 706a of the pair of fingers 706. A first pair of consumable contact pads 708a and a second pair of consumable contact pads 708b are used to transport the consumable components. Likewise, a third pair of substrate contact pads 708c is disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly 710 adjacent the first pair of consumable contact pads and between the first pair of consumable contact pads 708a and the second pair of consumable contact pads 708 b. A fourth pair of substrate contact pads 708d is disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly 710 adjacent the second pair of consumable contact pads and between the first pair of consumable contact pads 708a and the second pair of consumable contact pads 708 b. A third pair of substrate contact pads 708c and a fourth pair of substrate contact pads 708d are used to carry the wafer. Consumable contact pads 708a and 708b are disposed outside of the diameter of the wafer, while substrate contact pads 708c and 708d are disposed inside of the diameter of the wafer. This design allows the receiving surface of the wafer on the finger assembly 710 and the receiving surface of the consumable part 208 to be separated, minimizing contamination of the wafer.
In some embodiments, the contact pads are made of a non-slip material, such as an elastomeric material. The positions of the consumable contact pads 708a, 708b on the top surface of the fingers 706 are such that the contact pads provide a reliable contact support for the bottom surface of the consumable component 208 when the consumable component 208 is lifted by the end effector mechanism 700 of the robot arm. In some embodiments, more than one set of consumable contact pads 708a, 708b may be provided at the proximal end 710a and distal end 710b of the finger assembly 710 so that they can provide reliable contact support. In some embodiments, additional consumable contact pads 708 may be arranged to provide contact support to the bottom surface of consumable component 208 having different bottom surface profiles that may require more than one contact point.
Fig. 7A-7D illustrate a particular embodiment of a finger assembly 710 for use in an end effector mechanism 700, the end effector mechanism 700 being used to support consumable components 208 having different bottom surface profiles. In some embodiments, consumable component 208 can be an edge ring disposed adjacent to a wafer, for example, when the wafer is received within process module 112. The edge ring will have a different cross-sectional profile at the bottom surface and the consumable contact pads 708 are arranged on the top surface of the finger assembly 710 to accommodate the different surface profile of the consumable part 208.
Fig. 7A shows an embodiment wherein the bottom surface edge of the consumable part 208 is substantially rectangular in cross-section. In this embodiment, the consumable contact pads 708 disposed at the top surface of the finger assembly 710 provide a sufficient contact surface when the consumable components 208 are properly aligned and received on the finger assembly 710 of the end effector mechanism 700. In certain implementations, the consumable contact pads 708a, 708b are separated by a distance at least equal to the diameter of the consumable component. In the embodiment shown in fig. 7A, the consumable contact pad 708 is positioned such that it contacts the bottom surface of the consumable component 208 at an intermediate span.
Fig. 7B illustrates an alternative cross-sectional profile of the bottom surface of consumable component 208 in one embodiment. The consumable component 208 includes a cut-out on the bottom surface at the outer diameter of the consumable component 208. The position of the consumable contact pad 708 disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly 710 ensures that the consumable contact pad is in constant contact with the supporting consumable component 208 and does not come off the bottom surface of the consumable component 208 as long as the alignment of the consumable component 208 on the finger 706 is within a predefined position error limit.
Fig. 7C-1 illustrates a second alternative cross-sectional profile of the bottom surface of consumable component 208, in an embodiment. The consumable component 208 includes a cutout in the middle of the bottom surface. If a consumable contact pad 708 disposed at the distance shown in fig. 7A and 7B were to be used, that contact pad 708 would not provide sufficient contact with the bottom surface of the consumable component 208, as shown in fig. 7C-1. This will result in the consumable being received on the top surface of the finger 706, rather than on the surface of the consumable contact pad 708. When the pair of fingers 706 are made of a finished ceramic material, the consumable components 208 received on the pair of fingers 706 may be misaligned during their transport (a highly undesirable result) with a high degree of probability. To avoid such misalignment, additional consumable contact pads may be provided on the finger assembly 710 at different distances to ensure that when the notched consumable component 208 is received on the finger assembly 710, the bottom surface of the consumable component 208 is in sufficient contact with one or more of the consumable contact pads 708 provided on the pair of fingers 706. A consumable contact pad is defined on the finger assembly 710, supporting the consumable component 208 of a desired cross-section across a desired range of positional errors, while also being outside of a desired wafer excursion range, such that the wafer never contacts the consumable contact pad when received. Fig. 7C-2 illustrates one such example, where sets of two consumable contact pads 708 are disposed at different distances on a finger assembly 710 to provide reliable contact support at the bottom of the consumable part 208. The distance between the two consumable contact pads 708 may be configured according to the width of the cut.
Fig. 7D illustrates a third alternative cross-sectional profile of the bottom surface of consumable component 208, in an embodiment. In this embodiment, the consumable component 208 includes a flange with a smaller inner diameter to enable the wafer to be received over the flange of the consumable component when the wafer is received within the processing module. In this embodiment, the bottom surface of consumable component 208 includes a larger surface area than those shown in fig. 7A-7C. As a result, the consumable contact pads 708 disposed on the finger assemblies 710 will provide sufficient contact support to the consumable components 208 during transport. Some embodiments may use different types of contact pad concepts than those shown in fig. 7A-7D.
Fig. 7E shows the end effector mechanism 700 depicted in the robot 105 within the VTM104, and fig. 7F-1, 7F-2 show details of an alternative contact pad concept used within the end effector mechanism 700 to enable receipt of different bottom profile consumables. The various components of the end effector mechanism 700 shown in fig. 7E are similar to those discussed with reference to the end effector mechanism 700 depicted in fig. 6A.
Fig. 7F-1 and 7F-2 illustrate an alternative contact pad concept for use in an end effector mechanism 700 for receiving consumable components, in some embodiments. Fig. 7F-2 shows an enlarged view of portion a-1 of the finger 706 within the finger assembly 710, with an alternative contact pad concept being defined. In such embodiments, an annular contact structure 709 may be used in place of the consumable contact pad 708. In some embodiments, the annular contact structure 709 may be in the form of an O-ring made of an elastomeric material. The use of O-rings or annular contact structures 709 enables an annular line contact that spans a greater range of consumable part radii. It also solves the problem of consumable part bottom profile variations described with reference to fig. 7A-7D and provides greater tolerance for position errors at the end effector mechanism 700. In some embodiments, the consumable contact pad or annular contact structure and the wafer contact pad are defined as permanent components of the end effector mechanism 700. In such embodiments, the contact pads (consumable contact pads, wafer contact pads) and/or contact structures may be made of a ceramic material or any other metal suitable for the environment defined in the ATM102 or VTM 104. In other embodiments, the consumable contact pads, wafer contact pads, or contact structures may be made of replaceable consumable materials, such as elastomers or other similar types of materials.
Referring back to fig. 6B-6C, the end effector mechanism 700 shown in fig. 6B-6C may be used by the robot 105 within the vacuum transfer module 104, and also in some embodiments by the robot 103 within the ATM 102. In an alternative embodiment, the end effector mechanism 700 of fig. 6B-6C may be used by the robot 105 of the VTM104, while the configuration of the end effector mechanism 70 shown in fig. 6A or the redesigned end effector mechanism 70 or 700 may be implemented within the robot 103 of the ATM 102.
Fig. 8A-8B illustrate top views of different end effector mechanisms used in robots within the ATM102 and VTM104 in some embodiments of the present invention. As previously described, the robot 103 in the ATM102 may use either an existing end effector mechanism 70 with short fingers and a carrier plate, or a modified end effector mechanism 700 with extended fingers to move wafers and consumable parts. Fig. 8A shows a top view of the prior art end effector mechanism 70 integrated into the robot 103 of the ATM102, the robot 103 typically being used to transport wafers to the load lock chamber 110. Existing end effector mechanisms 70 may also be used to deliver consumable components to the load lock chamber 110. As can be seen in fig. 8A, the pair of fingers 707 defined in the end effector mechanism 70 are designed to provide contact support to a wafer (not shown) and are not designed to provide contact support to the consumable part 208, the consumable part 208 having a larger radius than the wafer. To enable the end effector mechanism 70 to be used to support and transport consumable components, a ring carrier fixture is used.
Fig. 8B illustrates an exemplary embodiment in which the ring carrier fixture is used with the end effector mechanism 70 in the robot 103 of the ATM102 to transport consumable components 208 between the change station 108 and the load lock chamber 110. The ring carrier fixture may be in the form of a carrier plate 1104. In some embodiments, the carrier plate 1104 is made of a carbon fiber material. Carbon fiber is lightweight and is desirable because it minimizes the increase in payload on the finger assembly 705. The carbon fibers also provide sufficient stiffness to minimize deflection.
In some embodiments, the carrier plate 1104 is configured to be triangular and sized such that the vertices (1104 a, 1104b, 1104 c) are at least as far as the radius of the consumable component 208 from the center 1104m of the carrier plate 1104. The triangular shape of the carrier plate has a number of advantages. For example, the triangular shape of the carrier plate enables the carrier plate 1104, with the consumable components 208 received thereon, to be easily moved into and out of the load lock chamber 110 without interfering with any of the components defined within the load lock chamber 110. This is possible because the vertices 1104a-1104c allow the carrier plate 1104 to easily move between, for example, the finger assemblies 902 defined within the load lock chamber 110 while maintaining sufficient clearance. Additionally, because the vertices 1104a-1104c are equally spaced from the center of gravity 1104m defined at the center of the triangular carrier plate 1104, the consumable components 208 can be properly supported at the vertices without undue stress on either side.
In one embodiment, the carrier plate 1104 is stored within the exchange station 108 and retrieved by the robot 103 of the ATM102 using the end effector mechanism 70. In some embodiments, the end effector mechanism 70 disposed within the robot 103 of the ATM102 may be configured to provide sufficient suction when picking up the carrier plate 1104 so that the carrier plate 1104 may be reliably received and carried on the end effector mechanism 70. In some embodiments, different carrier plates 1104 may be used to transport used consumable components and new consumable components, respectively. For example, a first carrier plate may be used to transport used consumable components, while a second carrier plate may be used to transport new consumable components.
The use of an end effector mechanism 70 having a loop carrier in the form of a carrier plate 1104 has its advantages. For example, existing end effector mechanisms 70 may be used without having to redesign the existing end effector mechanisms 70. Redesigning the end effector mechanism 70 to support the ring may require shape changes that may interfere with the wafer support or other hardware in different wafer switching positions. Such a backlash problem can be addressed by changing the robot trajectory of the robot within the ATM, but the trajectory change may increase the wafer transport time, thereby reducing the throughput of the system. Another use of the ring carrier enables the current track to be used for wafer transfer without any change in wafer throughput. If necessary, a specific ring transfer trajectory may be defined such that the wafer transfer trajectory is not changed. Furthermore, it has less impact on existing firmware. In some embodiments, the ring carrier (in the form of carrier plate 1104) may add a payload that may contribute to deflection from the ring transport plane. However, by using a suitable lightweight material for the ring carrier, such as carbon fibre, any increase in payload and resulting deflection is significantly minimised.
Fig. 9A and 9B illustrate side and top views of an exemplary end effector mechanism 70 used with a ring carrier 1104 in some embodiments, the ring carrier 1104 being used to transport consumable components 208 into the load lock chamber 110. The end effector mechanism 70 includes a wrist plate 701, the wrist plate 701 being attachable at one end to the robot 103 and at the other end to a mounting boom 703. A finger assembly 705 is attached to a second end of the mounting arm 703. The finger assembly 705 includes a pair of fingers 707 extending outwardly from the mounting arm 703. The finger assembly 705 has a proximal end 705a adjacent the mounting arm 703. The distal ends 705b of the finger assemblies 705 are defined at the fingertips 707a of the pairs of fingers 707. A first carrier contact pad 721a is disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly 705 near the center of the prongs 723 formed at the base of the finger 707. A second pair of carrier contact pads 721b is disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly 705 and is positioned proximate the distal end (705 b) of the finger assembly 705. The carrier plate 1104 is supported on the finger assembly 705 using a first carrier contact pad 721a and a second pair of carrier contact pads 721 b. The finger assembly 705 is also configured to transport a substrate or wafer. It should be noted that in some embodiments, existing end effector mechanisms 70 having loop carriers (in the form of carrier plates 1104) may be used only with the robot of the ATM102, as it is convenient to store and retrieve the carrier plates 1104 from the change station 108 at the change station 108, and there is no need to redesign any other modules for storing the carrier plates 1104. The carrier plate 1104 includes a consumable contact pad 708 disposed at each vertex 1104a-1104c at a distance from the center of the carrier plate 1104, the consumable contact pads 708 being outside the radius of the substrate. In some embodiments, the consumable contact pad 708 is at least the length of the radius of the consumable component 208 from the center of the carrier plate 1104 to provide a non-slip contact surface for the consumable component when the consumable component is received at the apex of the carrier plate 1104. As discussed with reference to the embodiments shown in fig. 7A-7D, the consumable contact pads 708 can be disposed at different distances from the apex of the carrier plate 1104. In some embodiments, each vertex may include a pair of consumable contact pads 708 disposed equidistant from each of vertices 1104a-1104 c. In alternative embodiments, a plurality of consumable contact pads 708 may be defined at different distances from each of the vertices 1104a-1104c to enable the contact pads to provide a reliable contact surface for consumable components 208 having different bottom surface profiles.
In addition to the modified end effector mechanism 700 included within the robot of the ATM102 and/or VTM104, additional modifications may be provided within the load lock chamber 110 to enable consumable components to be received therein during replacement operations.
Fig. 10A-10F provide various views and details of a support mechanism engaged within the load lock chamber 110 to receive and support consumable components in some embodiments. Fig. 10A illustrates a top view of a simplified load lock chamber 110, in one embodiment, the load lock chamber 110 is connected between the ATM102 and the VTM104 within the cluster tool assembly 100, and the consumable part 208 of the cluster tool assembly 100 needs to be replaced. The load lock chamber 110 includes a support mechanism 901 for receiving the consumable components 208. The support mechanism 901 includes a plurality of finger assemblies 902 that provide a contact surface on which the consumable components are received. The finger assembly 902 is disposed at a fixed location within the load lock chamber 110. In some embodiments, the finger assembly 902 is configured to have mutually exclusive contact points for receiving a wafer and consumable components to avoid cross-contamination, as will be described in the following paragraphs. It should be noted that the contact points may be at different heights or radial distances to achieve exclusive separation within the expected positional error of the wafer or consumable component.
Fig. 10B shows a prior art finger assembly 903 within the load lock chamber 110 designed to receive a wafer. Each finger assembly 903 includes a top support finger 903a and a bottom support finger 903 b. As shown, the top surfaces of both the top support fingers 903a and the bottom support fingers 903b are designed to include a portion 911 that is sloped downward. Contact pads 912 are defined proximate the front ends of the top and bottom support fingers 903a and 903b to provide a non-slip contact surface for the wafer when received. The spacer blocks are defined to support top support fingers 903a and bottom support fingers 903 b. The thickness of the spacer block is designed to provide sufficient play for receiving the wafer. However, the play provided by the spacer blocks of fig. 10B is insufficient for receiving consumable components, which have a larger radius than the wafer. To accommodate the consumable components, the finger assembly within the load lock chamber is redesigned to avoid interference with the components within the load lock chamber when receiving the consumable components.
Fig. 10C illustrates an exemplary redesigned finger assembly 902 of the support mechanism 901, in one embodiment of the invention, the support mechanism 901 being used within the load lock chamber 110 to enable consumable components to be received thereon. The support mechanism 901 includes a plurality of finger assemblies 902. In one embodiment shown in fig. 10A, the support mechanism includes three finger assemblies spaced equidistant from each other along the circumference of a circle. Each of the plurality of finger assemblies 902 includes a top support finger 902a and a bottom support finger 902 b. In an embodiment, the top surface of the bottom support finger 902b is designed to include a recess 908 adjacent the second end of the bottom support finger 902b, while a spacer block is disposed at the first end between the top support finger 902a and the bottom support finger 902 b. To adequately accommodate the consumable components, spacer block 905 is redesigned to provide sufficient play so that consumable components 208 can be fully received on finger assembly 902. In the embodiment shown in fig. 10C, the spacer block 905 is shown moved away from the center of the load lock chamber 110, near the side walls of the load lock chamber 110, so as not to interfere with the transport path of the consumable components. A second spacer 905 "may be disposed at a first end below the bottom support finger 902b and be the same size, thicker, or thinner than the redesigned spacer 905. In some embodiments, no spacer blocks 905 are provided and the finger assembly may include finger supports for supporting the top and bottom support fingers while providing a gap therebetween. Further, in one embodiment shown in fig. 10C, the bottom support fingers 902b in each finger assembly 902 in the load lock chamber 110 are redesigned to include a recess 908 on the top surface at a distance at least equal to the radius of the consumable part. In an embodiment, the recess 908 is dimensioned to be at least the width of the consumable component. One or more contact pads are defined on the surface of the finger assembly 902 to provide a non-slip contact support surface for the wafer and consumable component 208 when the wafer and consumable component 208 are received. For example, substrate contact pads 904 are disposed at a second end of the finger assembly proximate to the front ends of top support finger 902a and bottom support finger 902b and on the top surface of top support finger 902a and bottom support finger 902 b. In some embodiments, substrate contact pad 904 is defined at a distance from the center of the support mechanism equal to the radius of the wafer to provide a contact support surface for the wafer when received. In addition, a consumable contact pad 906 is defined within the recess 908 of the bottom support finger 902b to provide a contact support for the consumable component 208. An additional consumable contact pad 906 can be defined within the recess 908 based on the bottom surface profile of the consumable component.
In some embodiments, a substrate contact pad 904 at the top support finger 902a may be used to receive a wafer, while a consumable contact pad within the recess may be used to receive a consumable component. In an alternative embodiment, the top support finger 902a may include a recess 908 having a consumable contact pad 906 for receiving the consumable component 208, while a substrate contact pad 904 on the surface of the bottom support finger 902b may be used to receive a wafer. In an alternative embodiment, the recesses 908 may be provided in both the top support finger 902a and the bottom support finger 902 b. In this embodiment, both the top support finger 902a and the bottom support finger 902b are configured to receive the consumable part 208 and the wafer. It should be noted that consumable part 208 and the wafer are not received on the finger assembly at the same time. However, in some implementations, it is possible to receive the consumable component and the wafer simultaneously by enabling the consumable component to be received at the bottom support fingers 902b while receiving the wafer using the top support fingers 902a, and vice versa. In such embodiments, the wafer contact pads and consumable contact pads are designed to be positioned such that the contact surface for receiving consumable component 208 is kept separate from the contact surface for receiving the wafer to avoid cross-contamination. It should be noted that the wafer contact pad position is defined such that the received wafer will not contact the consumable contact pad at the limit of the allowed position error. Also, the consumable components received at the limit of the allowable positional error will not contact the wafer contact pads. Separation of the contact receiving surfaces will avoid cross contamination of the wafers as they are received on the finger assemblies. In some embodiments, instead of using different contact pads, an annular contact structure may be disposed within a recess 908 defined within the bottom support finger 902b and/or the top support finger 902 a. The annular contact structure may be made of an elastomeric material and may be an O-ring. The contact surface provided by the annular contact structure spans a larger range of consumable part radii.
Consumable components (e.g., edge rings) disposed proximate to wafers within the process modules are exposed to harsh processing conditions to which the wafers are exposed within the process modules. As a result, some of the chemical treatment substances may have been deposited as contaminants on the surface of the consumable part. When a consumable component is to be replaced in a process module, the used consumable component with contaminants is removed from the process module and received into the load lock chamber 110, and a new consumable component is moved from the load lock chamber 110 to the process module. When the load lock chamber 110 is used to move consumable parts and wafers into and out of the process module, if the contact support surface is common to both the receiving consumable part and the wafer, there is a high likelihood that contaminants from the used consumable part will contaminate the surface of the wafer. To prevent such contamination from occurring, one solution is to use separate load lock chambers 110 to move the wafer and consumable part, respectively. Such an arrangement may be feasible, but may severely impact wafer throughput, as only one of the two load lock chambers 110 will be available to move wafers.
To maintain wafer throughput and avoid potential wafer contamination, an alternative solution, in one embodiment, is to make available load lock chambers 110 within cluster tool assembly 100 for moving new and used consumable parts 208 as well as pre-processed and processed wafers. For example, in one embodiment, the top support fingers 902a and the bottom support fingers 902b may provide separate receiving areas for consumable components and wafers. In such embodiments, the plurality of contact pads provided at the finger assembly enable the contact surface of the wafer to be maintained at a height spaced apart from the contact surface of the consumable component. In the case where the consumable part is in the form of a ring (i.e., an edge ring), wafer surface contamination can be avoided or minimized by maintaining the contact surface of the ring at a different height than the wafer contact surface.
FIG. 10D illustrates an in-suit, in one embodimentAn enlarged view of one such finger assembly 902 for holding wafers and consumable parts within the loadlock chamber 110. A recess 908 is defined on the top surface of the bottom support finger 902 b. One or more consumable contact pads 906 are disposed within the recess 908 for receiving the consumable components 208, while one or more substrate contact pads 904 are disposed proximate the front ends of the support fingers 902a, 902b for receiving a wafer. In an embodiment, on the bottom support finger 902b, a consumable contact pad 906 for receiving a consumable component is disposed at a distance from the center of the support mechanism at least equal to the radius of the consumable component 208, while a substrate contact pad 904 for receiving a wafer is disposed at a distance from the center of the support mechanism at least equal to the radius of the wafer. The consumable contact pads 906 disposed within the recesses 908 of the plurality of finger assemblies 902 define an annular receiving plane 911 for receiving the consumable components 208, and the substrate contact pads 904 disposed on the finger assemblies 902 define a wafer receiving plane 913 for receiving a wafer. The recess 908 enables the annular receiving plane 911 and the wafer receiving plane 913 to be arranged at different heights, so that the contact support surface for the wafer is separated from the contact support surface for the consumable part. This separation of the contact support surfaces is designed to protect the surfaces of the wafer from contamination by preventing the wafer from coming into contact with any part of the contact support surface intended to receive the consumable part. In one embodiment, the height (h) of the annular receiving plane 911 relative to the wafer receiving plane 913 is2) At a lower height (h)1) (i.e., height h)1<h2). In one embodiment, h2And h1The difference between is at least greater than the height of the consumable part 208. In another embodiment, the height h1>h2Such that the wafer is received at a lower elevation and the consumable part is received at a higher elevation while the wafer receiving surface is spaced apart from the consumable part receiving surface.
Of course, the design of the finger assembly shown in fig. 10C and 10D is one example of keeping the contact surface of the wafer and the contact surface of the consumable part separate. Other designs may be used, including where the height h may be used1>h2The finger assembly design of (1). In this design, a cutout may be defined at the front end of the top surface of the support fingers 902a, 902 b. The surface formed by the cutout may be used to receive a substrate contact pad 904 for supporting the wafer, while the consumable component may be received on a consumable contact pad 906, the consumable contact pad 906 being defined within a recess 908 at the top surface of the bottom support finger 902 b. In an embodiment, a notch may also be formed on the top and/or bottom support fingers 902a, 902b such that it defines a wafer receiving surface for receiving a wafer, the notch being located at least at a distance from the center of the support mechanism 901 equal to a radius of the wafer, while a substrate contact pad 904 may be provided thereon to provide a reliable contact support surface for the wafer. Likewise, consumable contact pads provided within recesses 908 defined within the top surfaces of the support fingers 902a, 902b provide contact support surfaces for the consumable components.
Fig. 10E and 10F illustrate exemplary airlock chambers before and after redesigning the support mechanism 901 in some embodiments. The support mechanism 901 includes a plurality of finger assemblies that have been redesigned to accommodate the transport of consumable parts as well as wafers. The redesigned finger assembly provides a simple, easy, and cost-effective solution as it allows consumable components 208 to be received into the load lock chamber 110 without having to completely redesign the load lock chamber 110. As shown in fig. 10E, to fully receive the consumable component 208 on the bottom support fingers 902b of the finger assembly within the support mechanism 901, the spacer block 905' must be redesigned to be moved out of the transport path of the consumable component. The prior design shown in fig. 10E shows a spacer block 905' that causes interference when a consumable part is received on the bottom support finger 902 b. Fig. 10F shows an exemplary embodiment in which a redesigned spacer block 905 is engaged. The redesigned spacer block 905 is shown to move away from the airlock center, closer to the sidewall. As previously described, the top and bottom support fingers may be supported and spaced apart by redesigned spacer blocks 905 or alternatively by finger supports (not shown) that provide sufficient play to enable the consumable components to be adequately received on the bottom support fingers.
In order to adequately receive the consumable components 208 on the top support fingers 902a, there must be sufficient vertical play to avoid interference caused by the inner edge radius of the load lock chamber 110, and such interference is encountered when moving the consumable components into and out of the load lock chamber 110. The finger assembly is designed to account for this limitation by providing at least minimal play between the "forbidden zone" of the consumable components and the upper and lower slot corners of the load lock chamber. The exclusion zone as used in this application refers to the cross-section of the largest consumable part design (e.g., outer diameter and height) and the superimposed peripheral offset representing the tolerance. The stack-up of tolerances includes the effects of position errors due to leveling, end effector deflection, robot arm trajectory, robot teaching, and other tolerance contributing factors. The upper and lower slot corners are defined as respective areas on the edges of the top and bottom support fingers of the support mechanism in the load lock chamber that receives the consumable components. In some embodiments, the minimum play defined between the exclusion zone and the slot corner is between about 0.01 inches and about 0.03 inches. In other embodiments, the minimum play is about 0.025 inches.
The finger assembly 902 is designed such that there is at least a minimum nominal play between the consumable components received on the finger assembly and the sidewall 110a of the load lock chamber 110. In some embodiments, the minimum nominal play is designed to be at least between about 5 millimeters to about 6 millimeters. In other embodiments, the minimum play is about 5.4 millimeters. In some embodiments, a minimum nominal play to the side of the load lock chamber 110 is defined to account for consumable part misalignment or positional offset, which can be corrected by the VTM robot using dynamic alignment inputs.
In addition, the height of the spacer blocks 905 within the finger assemblies 902 should be defined so as to provide sufficient vertical play between the top support fingers 902a and the bottom support fingers 902b so that consumable parts received on the bottom support fingers 902b can be moved into and out of the load lock chamber 110 without any interference. In some embodiments, the spacer blocks 905 within the finger assembly 902 are designed so as to provide a minimum gap between the top surface of the consumable components received on the bottom support fingers 902b and the bottom surface of the top support fingers 902a to define an annular conveying plane for moving the consumable components therealong. In some embodiments, the minimum gap is between about 4 millimeters and 5 millimeters. In some embodiments, the vertical play defined by the gap is about 4.6 millimeters. In some embodiments, the vertical play between the top and bottom support fingers is designed to provide a minimum play of at least about 2 millimeters to about 3 millimeters above and below the consumable components as they are transferred into and out of the load lock chamber 110. In another embodiment, the vertical play between the top and bottom support fingers is designed to be at least about 2.3 millimeters above and below the consumable components to enable transport. In some embodiments, vertical play is defined to account for any payload deflection that may exist in the end effector mechanism during transport.
High-level operations for replacing consumable components within cluster tool assembly 100, in one embodiment, will now be discussed. As described with reference to fig. 3 and 3A, cluster tool assembly 100 includes: one or more load ports to which the wafer loader 115 or the exchange station 108 is permanently or temporarily mounted; an ATM having a first robot for moving consumable parts and wafers; a load lock chamber; a VTM having a second robot; and one or more processing modules. Consumable components are disposed within the processing module and may need to be replaced periodically so that wafer processing can be efficiently achieved.
In one embodiment, all processing modules integrated with the VTM are rendered inoperative when a consumable component needs to be replaced within the processing module. This means that no wafers are within the cluster tool assembly except in the case of engaging a closed wafer loader. If the change station is temporarily installed, at least one load port of the ATM remains free for receiving the change station 108. In this embodiment, the cluster tool assembly 100 is not configured to perform wafer processing and consumable part replacement simultaneously. In an alternative embodiment, the cluster tool assembly may be configured to perform the replacement of the consumable part and the processing of the wafer simultaneously. In such an embodiment, access to the various modules is coordinated so that the consumable components and wafers can be moved efficiently.
In one embodiment, a replacement station 108 with replacement consumable components is mounted to a free load port within the cluster tool assembly 100. In one embodiment, the installation is done manually. In an alternative embodiment, the mounting is done using a robotic arm. In the embodiment shown in fig. 3A, a FOUP-type change station may be transported in an automated fashion using an Overhead Hoist Transport (OHT) or Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV), which may be part of an Automated Material Handling System (AMHS). In one embodiment, the AMHS is installed within a body manufacturing facility. In some embodiments, the AMHS may include automated storage that stores FOUP type replacement stations and/or wafer loaders. The AMHS may include tracking software to direct the OHT or AGV to the appropriate replacement station or wafer loader so that the appropriate replacement station or wafer loader may be removed from the storage and installed into a free load port within the cluster tool assembly. In some embodiments, the OHT or AGV may be equipped with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag reader or bar code reader to ascertain the location of the exchange station or wafer loader within the storage of the AMHS. In some embodiments, the storage may include multiple rows of exchange stations and/or wafer loaders. In such an embodiment, the software may direct the OHT or AGV into the appropriate row, while a barcode reader or RFID tag reader may be used to identify the particular change station or wafer loader for removal from the row. In one example, the OHT or AGV may therefore retrieve the replacement station and automatically mount it to a free load port defined within the first side of the ATM of the cluster tool assembly.
Upon installation of the change station 108, the transfer sequence is initiated on a user interface of a computer communicatively connected to the cluster tool component. The transfer sequence causes the change station 108 to be loaded to the cluster tool assembly. In some embodiments, consumable part mapping is done by the ATM robot 103 when loading the change station. The mapping may be to provide a dynamic alignment input so that the consumable components may be aligned when moved to the load lock chamber.
The VTM robot 105 simultaneously or sequentially removes used consumable parts from the process modules 112 in the cluster tool assembly 100 and transfers the used consumable parts 208 to the load lock chamber 110. The VTM robot 105 uses planar transfer to move the consumable components 208 by coordinating the lift pin motion within the process module 112. More information about the lift pin mechanism for removing consumable parts from the process module is discussed with reference to fig. 4. The VTM robot 105 places the used consumable component 208 within the bottom support fingers 902b of the finger assembly 902. In some embodiments, both the top support finger 902a and the bottom support finger 902b may be used to transport used or new consumable components 208. In an embodiment, the bottom support finger 902b may be used to receive only used consumable components 208, while the top support finger 902a may be used to receive only new consumable components 208, or vice versa. In other embodiments, the receipt of used consumable components and new consumable components is not limited to a particular one of the support fingers, but may be received on any one of the top support finger 902a and the bottom support finger 902 b. Dynamic alignment is active within the load lock chamber 110 during replacement of the consumable part 208.
Once the used consumable components 208 are placed on the support mechanism 901 of the load lock chamber 110, the air lock is vented to place the load lock chamber 110 in ambient conditions. The ATM robot 103 is then activated to remove the consumable part 208 from the load lock chamber 110 and transfer it to the change station 108. In an embodiment, this may include the ATM robot 103 to remove the ring carrier (i.e., carrier plate) 1104 from the change station 108 and use it for removing used consumable components from the load lock chamber 110. The ATM robot 103 then picks up a new consumable part 208 from the change station 108 and transfers it to the load lock chamber 110. After receiving a new consumable part 208, the load lock chamber 110 is evacuated to vacuum. To evacuate the load lock chamber 110 to a vacuum, in one embodiment, the load lock chamber 110 may be coupled to a pump through a vacuum control module (not shown) connected to a controller. The controller is used to coordinate the action of the pumps to enable the load lock chamber 110 to be pumped down to vacuum when a new consumable part 208 is to be moved through the VTM104 into the process module 112. Once the load lock chamber 110 is set to a vacuum state, the VTM robot 105 is activated to pick up the consumable part 208 from the load lock chamber 110 and transport it to the process module 112. In one embodiment, access to the load lock chamber 110 is controlled by a gate valve connected between the VTM104 and the load lock chamber 110. Likewise, access to the process modules 112 by the VTM104 may be controlled by a second gate valve (e.g., an isolation valve), as discussed with reference to fig. 5C. The second gate valve may be operated using a sensor mechanism. Since dynamic alignment is active during replacement of consumable components 208, when the VTM robot 105 picks a replacement consumable component 208 from the load lock chamber 110, it picks the consumable component 208 with the dynamic alignment corrected and places it into the process module 112. The lift pin mechanism in the process module 112 extends the lift pins to receive the consumable components 208, positions the consumable components 208 in an installed state, and then retracts the lift pins within a housing (e.g., a lift pin housing). In one embodiment, replacement of consumable components 208 within more than one process module 112 and 120 (alternatively referred to as "process chambers") may be sequentially processed one at a time using this method.
Fig. 11 illustrates an exemplary replacement station 108 for storing new and used consumable components 208 in one embodiment. In an embodiment, the exchange station 108 may be similar in structure to a wafer loader and include a component buffer 224 having a plurality of compartments 207 to store consumable components 208. In an embodiment, the component buffer includes a "clean" or "new" consumable component area 1206 for receiving and storing new consumable components 208 and a "dirty" or "worn" consumable component area 1208 for receiving and storing used and worn potentially contaminated consumable components 208. A divider plate 1202 may be provided within the exchange station 108 to separate a clean consumable section 1206 from a dirty consumable section 1208. In an embodiment, a ring carrier in the form of a carrier plate 1104 may be stored within a housing provided within the exchange station. In an embodiment, a housing for the carrier plate 1104 may be provided within the clean or new consumable part region 1206. The housing for the carrier plate 1104 may be disposed at the bottom, top, or anywhere between the bottom and top of the clean or new consumable region 1206. In an alternative embodiment, the carrier plate 1104 may be housed within a dirty or worn consumable component region 1208. The housing for the carrier plate 1104 may be disposed at the bottom, top, or anywhere between the bottom and top of the dirty or worn consumable component region 1208. In some embodiments, the change station 108 may accommodate two carrier plates 1104, one in a clean or new consumable part region 1206 and the other in a dirty or worn consumable part region 1208, so that new and used consumable parts may be transferred between the change station and the load lock chamber 110, respectively. In alternative embodiments, one or more zones may be defined in the ATM102 to store used and new consumable components instead of or in addition to the change station 108. In such embodiments, consumable components may be transported and removed from the ATM102 using the change station 108 and a robot in the ATM102 or using other transport and removal devices.
FIG. 12 illustrates a view toward an exemplary slot in a process module in which a consumable component is received, in one embodiment. For example, consumable parts are received along a Ring Transport Plane (RTP) 1301 located above a set of chamber interface pins 1308 within the processing module 112. In some embodiments, the RTP 1301 is defined over a Chamber Interface Pin (CIP) 1308. In certain embodiments, the height of the consumable components on the top surface of an electrostatic chuck (ESC) disposed in the process module 112 is defined such that the play is sufficient to allow the consumable components to move in and out of the process module 112 without any interference. In such embodiments, play ensures consumable components, and the end effector mechanism with the arm rest can fit through the slot opening of the process module 112. Since the slot opening is designed for wafer transfer, the size of the consumable components can be limited by the slot size. When wider consumable components are to be transported, the segmented consumable components can be used to fit into existing slot openings of the processing module 112, rather than redesigning the slot openings. In a particular example, the relative height of the ESC biases the consumable toward the top of the slot. Due to the specific size of the slot corner radius, there is a trade-off between height and diameter of the consumable part. To ensure sufficient play around, a tolerance zone may be defined around the consumable part and the robot to provide a combined volume during transfer. The tolerance zone will have to take into account load deflection effects, robot arm trajectory errors, leveling error effects, and other factors. In some embodiments, the play above, below and to the sides of the nominal ring carryway can be as small as a few millimeters or less.
In some embodiments, the RTP is different from a Wafer Transfer Plane (WTP). In such an embodiment, the WTP is defined to be above the CIP 1308 and RTP as the wafer is transferred into and out of the process module 112. In some embodiments, a minimum play is defined between an exclusion zone 1304 of the consumable components 208 and an inside corner radius 1306 leading to an opening in the process module 112 through which the wafer and consumable components are transported. In some embodiments, the size of the minimum play may be a few millimeters. This minimum play allows the consumable components to be moved into and out of the process module 112 without any parts in the process module 112 interfering with the transport of the consumable components.
Various embodiments have been described that define an end effector mechanism for use within a robot of the ATM102 and VTM104 for transporting wafers to also transport consumable parts. In some embodiments, the end effector mechanism is redesigned so that the finger assembly extends beyond the edge of the wafer, thereby enabling the consumable components to be supported. In an alternative embodiment, an existing end effector mechanism is used to transport the consumable components. In such embodiments, because existing end effector mechanisms are not designed to support consumable components, an intermediate fixture in the form of a ring carrier is temporarily used to support the consumable components during transport thereof. The finger assembly in the load lock chamber is redesigned to support the consumable components. The redesigned end effector mechanism and finger assembly has multiple contact pads to define mutually exclusive contact points for the wafer and consumable components to avoid cross-contamination. The contact pads (consumable contact pads, wafer contact pads) may be designed to provide contact points at different heights or radial distances to achieve an exclusionary separation within the expected positional error of the wafer or consumable.
Consumable parts often exceed the diameter, thickness and weight of the wafer. Thus, additional transport towards the consumable part of the tool (which was not originally designed for such transport) is limited by play within the existing hardware. The additional payload induced deflection further reduces the play. Therefore, to accommodate the increase in payload and reduce deflection, the end effector mechanism may be made of a higher stiffness material (e.g., ceramic) to limit deflection or thickness increase while reducing the total payload on the robot with the redesigned end effector mechanism. Various contact pads (wafer contact pads, consumable contact pads) are defined on the surface of the finger assembly within the end effector mechanism to support consumable components within a desired positional error range and possibly with different bottom surface profiles. The same alignment input used to center the wafer may also be used to position and center the consumable components. Consumable parts can be transported to and removed from the cluster tool assembly via a standard wafer FOUP load port defined within the ATM. The exchange station for transporting and removing consumable parts is designed similar to the FOUP design for transporting wafers. The replacement station may be temporarily mounted to the load port of the ATM manually or by an automated system, such as an overhead rail FOUP transport system. This temporary mounting enables consumable components to be replaced without the need to move or consume other wafer storage or processing hardware on the ATM (i.e., wafer buffers, cooling stations, integrated metrology, etc.). In an alternative embodiment, the consumable components may be received into the ATM via a replacement station, temporarily stored in the ATM separate from the load port and removed when the consumable components require replacement. The various embodiments described herein provide an efficient and cost-effective way to replace consumable components within a cluster tool assembly without breaking vacuum seals, thereby allowing shorter down time of the cluster tool assembly. Reduced downtime of cluster tool components can lead to increased wafer throughput.
Fig. 13 shows a control module (also referred to as a controller) 220 for controlling the cluster tool assembly described above. In one embodiment, the controller 220 may include some exemplary components, such as a processor, memory, and one or more interfaces. The controller 220 may be used to control devices in the cluster tool assembly 100 based in part on the sensed values. For example only, the controller 220 may control one or more valves 602 (including isolation valves 216, 216' of fig. 5A, 5B, 5C), filter heaters 604, pumps 606 (including pump 233), and other devices 608 based on the sensed values and other control parameters. For example only, the controller 220 receives sensed values from a pressure gauge 610, a flow meter 612, a temperature sensor 614, and/or other sensors 616. The controller 220 may also be used to control the process conditions during precursor delivery and film deposition. The controller 220 will typically include one or more memory devices and one or more processors.
The controller 220 may control the activities of the precursor delivery system and the deposition apparatus. The controller 220 executes a computer program including sets of instructions for controlling process timing, transport system temperature, pressure differential across the filter, valve positions, robot and end effector, gas mixture, chamber pressure, chamber temperature, wafer temperature, RF power levels, wafer chuck or susceptor position, and other parameters of a particular process. The controller 220 may also monitor the pressure differential and automatically switch the vapor precursor from one or more paths to one or more other paths. Other computer programs stored on a memory device associated with the controller 220 may be employed in some embodiments.
Typically, there will be a user interface associated with the controller 220. The user interface may include a display 618 (e.g., a display screen and/or graphical software display of the apparatus and/or process conditions), as well as user input devices 620 such as a pointing device, keyboard, touch screen, microphone, and the like.
The computer program for controlling the delivery of the precursors, deposition and other processes in the processing sequence may be written in any conventional computer readable programming language, such as assembly language, C, C + +, Pascal, Fortran or other programming languages. The compiled object code or script is executed by the processor to perform the tasks identified in the program.
Control module (i.e., controller) parameters related to process conditions such as, for example, pressure differential across the filter, composition and flow rate of the process gas, temperature, pressure, plasma conditions such as RF power level and low frequency RF frequency, pressure of the cooling gas, and chamber wall temperature.
The system software may be designed or configured in many different ways. For example, a plurality of chamber component subroutines or control objects may be written to control the operation of the chamber or process module components necessary to perform the deposition process of the invention. Examples of programs or portions of programs for this purpose include substrate positioning code, process gas control code, pressure control code, heater control code, plasma control code, lift mechanism control code, robot position code, end effector position code, and valve position control code.
The substrate positioning program can include program code for controlling chamber components used to load the substrate onto the pedestal or chuck and to control the spacing between the substrate and other components of the chamber, such as gas inlets and/or targets. The process gas control program may include code for controlling the gas composition and flow rate and optionally for flowing the gas into the chamber prior to deposition to stabilize the pressure in the chamber. The filter monitoring procedure includes a code that compares the measured difference with a predetermined value and/or a code for switching paths. The pressure control routine may include code for controlling the pressure in the chamber by adjusting a throttle valve in an exhaust system, such as the chamber. The heater control program may include code for controlling current to a heating unit for heating a component in the precursor delivery system, the substrate, and/or other portions of the system. Alternatively, the heater control program may control the delivery of a heat transfer gas (e.g., helium) to the wafer chuck. The valve position control code may include, for example, a code that controls access to a process module or cluster tool component by controlling an isolation valve that provides access to the process module or cluster tool component. The lift mechanism control code may include, for example, a code that activates an actuator driver to cause an actuator to move a lift pin. The manipulator position code may include, for example, code that manipulates the position of the manipulator, including code that manipulates movement of the manipulator along a lateral axis, a vertical axis, or a radial axis. The end effector position codes may include, for example, codes that manipulate the position of the end effector, including codes that manipulate the manipulator to extend, retract, or move along a lateral, vertical, or radial axis.
Examples of sensors that may be monitored during deposition include, but are not limited to, mass flow control modules, pressure sensors such as pressure gauge 610, and thermocouples located in the transport system, susceptor, or chuck (e.g., temperature sensor 614). Suitably programmed feedback and control algorithms can be used with the data from these sensors to maintain the desired process conditions. Embodiments of the present invention have been described previously as being implemented in a single or multi-chamber semiconductor processing tool.
Various embodiments described herein allow consumable components to be replaced in a quick and efficient manner without having to open the cluster tool assembly to atmospheric conditions. As a result, the time to replace consumable parts, as well as any risk of contaminating the chamber during replacement of consumable parts, is greatly reduced, thereby allowing the cluster tool assembly to be brought online faster. In addition, the risk of unintentional damage to the process module, consumable components and other hardware components in the process module is also greatly reduced.
The foregoing description of the embodiments has been presented for the purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention. Individual elements or features of a particular embodiment are generally not limited to that particular embodiment, but, where applicable, are interchangeable and can be used in a selected embodiment, even if not specifically shown or described. The individual elements or features of a particular embodiment may also be varied in many ways. Such variations are not to be regarded as a departure from the invention, and all such modifications are intended to be included within the scope of the invention.
Although the foregoing embodiments have been described in some detail for purposes of clarity of understanding, it will be apparent that certain changes and modifications may be practiced within the scope of the appended claims. Accordingly, the present embodiments are to be considered as illustrative and not restrictive, and the embodiments are not to be limited to the details given herein, but may be modified within the scope and equivalents of the claims.

Claims (24)

1. A load lock chamber disposed within a cluster tool assembly for processing substrates, the cluster tool assembly having an atmospheric transfer module, a vacuum transfer module, and a processing module, the load lock chamber disposed between the atmospheric transfer module and the vacuum transfer module, the load lock chamber comprising:
a support mechanism having a plurality of finger assemblies, each of the plurality of finger assemblies including a top support finger and a bottom support finger, the top and bottom support fingers having first and second ends, a top surface of the bottom support finger including a recess adjacent the second end and defined between the first and second ends;
a first spacer block disposed at the first end between the top support finger and the bottom support finger,
a second spacer block disposed at the first end below the bottom support finger;
a substrate contact pad disposed on top surfaces of the top and bottom support fingers at the second end adjacent to front ends of the top and bottom support fingers; and
a consumable contact pad disposed within the recess, the consumable contact pad disposed between the substrate contact pad within the bottom support finger and the first end of the bottom support finger,
wherein the plurality of finger assemblies are configured to transport a consumable component using the consumable contact pad and to transport a substrate using the substrate contact pad.
2. The load lock chamber of claim 1, wherein the consumable contact pad is disposed outside a diameter of the substrate.
3. The load lock chamber of claim 1, wherein the substrate contact pad is disposed inside a diameter of the substrate.
4. The load lock chamber of claim 1, further comprising a second consumable contact pad disposed within the recess of the bottom support finger adjacent to and between the consumable contact pad and the first end of the bottom support finger.
5. The load lock chamber of claim 4, wherein the second consumable contact pad is disposed outside a diameter of the substrate.
6. The load lock chamber of claim 1, wherein the consumable contact pad and the substrate contact pad are made of an elastomeric material.
7. The load lock chamber of claim 1, wherein the load lock chamber is disposed between the atmospheric transfer module and the vacuum transfer module, the load lock chamber providing an interface between the atmospheric transfer module and the vacuum transfer module.
8. A cluster tool assembly having an atmospheric transfer module, a vacuum transfer module, a load lock chamber, and a process module, the cluster tool assembly comprising:
the atmospheric transport module having a first robot;
a replacement station coupled to a first side of the atmospheric transport module, the replacement station having a component buffer with a plurality of compartments for storing new or used consumable components;
a load lock chamber coupled to a second side of the atmospheric transfer module and a first side of the vacuum transfer module, the load lock chamber providing an interface between the atmospheric transfer module and the vacuum transfer module; and
wherein the first robot comprises a first end effector mechanism, the first end effector mechanism of the first robot comprising,
a wrist-like plate;
a mounting arm coupled to the wrist plate;
a finger assembly mounted to the mounting arm and including a pair of fingers extending outwardly from the mounting arm, the finger assembly having a proximal end adjacent the mounting arm and a distal end defined at a forward end of the pair of fingers;
a first carrier contact pad disposed on a top surface of the finger assembly proximate a center of a fork defined by the pair of fingers; and
a second pair of carrier contact pads disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly and positioned adjacent the distal end of the finger assembly,
wherein the finger assembly is configured to transport a substrate and support a carrier plate using the first and second pairs of carrier contact pads, wherein the carrier plate is configured to support a consumable component.
9. The cluster tool assembly of claim 8, wherein the carrier plate is triangular in shape, the carrier plate including a consumable contact pad disposed at each vertex of the carrier plate such that the consumable contact pad disposed at each vertex is outside a radius of the substrate from a center of the carrier plate.
10. The cluster tool assembly of claim 8, wherein the change station includes a housing for storing the carrier plate.
11. The cluster tool assembly of claim 8, wherein the change station includes a divider plate to separate a selected compartment of the plurality of compartments storing new consumables from other compartments of the plurality of compartments storing used consumables, wherein the change station includes a housing defined on the divider plate for storing the carrier plate.
12. The cluster tool assembly of claim 11, wherein the change station includes a second housing for storing a second carrier plate, the second housing defined below the divider plate, wherein the compartment below the divider plate is used to store used consumable components.
13. The cluster tool assembly of claim 8, wherein the process module is coupled to the second side of the vacuum transfer module, and wherein access from the vacuum transfer module to the process module is through a gate valve operated using a sensor mechanism.
14. The cluster tool assembly of claim 8, wherein the vacuum transfer module comprises a second robot having a second end effector mechanism, the second end effector mechanism of the second robot comprising,
a wrist-like plate;
a mounting arm coupled to the wrist plate, the mounting arm having a top plate and a bottom plate;
a finger assembly clamped between the top plate and the bottom plate of the mounting arm, the finger assembly including a pair of fingers extending outwardly from the mounting arm, the finger assembly having a proximal end adjacent the mounting arm and a distal end at a forward end of the pair of fingers;
a first pair of consumable contact pads disposed on a top surface of the finger assembly and positioned at the proximal end of the finger assembly;
a second pair of consumable contact pads disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly and positioned at the distal end of the finger assembly;
a third pair of substrate contact pads disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly adjacent to and between the first pair of consumable contact pads and the second pair of consumable contact pads; and
a fourth pair of substrate contact pads disposed on the top surface of the finger assembly adjacent to the second pair of consumable contact pads and between the first pair of consumable contact pads and the second pair of consumable contact pads,
wherein the finger assembly is configured to transport consumable components using the first and second pairs of consumable contact pads and to transport substrates using the third and fourth pairs of substrate contact pads.
15. The cluster tool assembly of claim 14, wherein the first and second pairs of consumable contact pads are disposed outside a diameter of the substrate, and wherein the third and fourth pairs of substrate contact pads are disposed inside the diameter of the substrate.
16. The cluster tool assembly of claim 8, further comprising a dynamic aligner coupled to the atmospheric transport module to provide an alignment input to a computer communicatively connected to the dynamic aligner and the atmospheric transport module, wherein the computer is used to send a signal having the alignment input to the first robot.
17. The cluster tool assembly of claim 8, further comprising one or more wafer loaders disposed at the first side of the atmospheric transport module, each of the one or more wafer loaders comprising a wafer buffer zone including a plurality of compartments to store processed or unprocessed substrates.
18. The cluster tool assembly of claim 8, further comprising a controller connected to each of the atmospheric transfer module, the vacuum transfer module, the load lock chamber, the process module, and the change station, the controller including transfer logic and vacuum state control means, the transfer logic being used to coordinate access to the change station, the atmospheric transfer module, the load lock chamber, the vacuum transfer module, and the process module, and the vacuum state control means being used to maintain the process module and the vacuum transfer module in a vacuum state.
19. The cluster tool assembly of claim 8, wherein the process module includes a lift mechanism for moving the consumable components within the process module from a mounted position to a raised position during replacement to provide access to the consumable components and for moving the consumable components from the raised position to the mounted position.
20. The cluster tool assembly of claim 14, wherein the first robot, the second robot, the vacuum transfer module, the process module, and the load lock chamber are connected with a controller to coordinate movement of the consumable parts between the exchange station and the load lock chamber and between the load lock chamber and the process module.
21. The cluster tool assembly of claim 8, wherein the load lock chamber further comprises a vacuum control device coupled to a pump, wherein the vacuum control device is connected with a controller to coordinate actions of the pump configured to maintain the load lock chamber in a vacuum state during operation.
22. The cluster tool assembly of claim 8, wherein the exchange station includes a structure similar to a front opening unified pod structure of a wafer loader for transporting substrates, the opening within the exchange station connecting with an opening of a load port defined on the first side of the atmospheric transport module.
23. The cluster tool assembly of claim 22, wherein the connecting is performed automatically using an automated mainframe material processing system available in a mainframe manufacturing facility in which the cluster tool assembly is located, the automated mainframe material processing system including tracking software to direct an Overhead Hoist Transport (OHT) or Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) of the automated mainframe material processing system to an appropriate replacement station or wafer loader stored in the mainframe manufacturing facility.
24. A cluster tool assembly for processing a substrate, the cluster tool assembly having an atmospheric transfer module, a vacuum transfer module, a load lock chamber, and a processing module, the cluster tool assembly comprising:
a replacement station coupled to a first side of the atmospheric transport module, the replacement station having a component buffer with a plurality of compartments to store new or used consumable components;
the load lock chamber coupled to a second side of the atmospheric transfer module and a first side of the vacuum transfer module, the load lock chamber providing an interface between the atmospheric transfer module and the vacuum transfer module, the load lock chamber comprising:
a support mechanism having a plurality of finger assemblies, each of the plurality of finger assemblies including a top support finger and a bottom support finger, the top and bottom support fingers having first and second ends, a top surface of the bottom support finger including a recess adjacent the second end and defined between the first and second ends;
a first spacer block disposed at the first end between the top support finger and the bottom support finger,
a second spacer block disposed at the first end below the bottom support finger;
a substrate contact pad disposed on top surfaces of the top and bottom support fingers at the second end adjacent to front ends of the top and bottom support fingers; and
a consumable contact pad disposed within the recess, the consumable contact pad disposed between the substrate contact pad within the bottom support finger and the first end of the bottom support finger,
wherein the plurality of finger assemblies are configured to transport a consumable component using a consumable contact pad and to transport a substrate using the substrate contact pad.
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